Love and adoration are actions, not just soundbites, and social media posts. It’s showing up for your hero’s family when he can’t.
Kobe Bryant’s oldest daughter, Natalia, recently filed a request for a restraining order against a man that has allegedly been stalking her, sending unwanted messages on social media, and has attempted to visit her twice on campus at USC. According to reports, the man’s name is Dwayne Cortez Toliver Kemp, and he’s 32. Kemp has been arrested or convicted four times, is believed to be a gun enthusiast, and has been contacting Bryant since 2020. He even allegedly sent her a picture of Kobe with a message that read, “Thankful For Him Birthing You, Hopefully We Can Birth Him… ‘Kobe.’”
Wild, right? But, do you know what’s even wilder?
The hush from current and former players.
From wearing his shoes to patterning their game after his, and openly discussing how much his career and death affected them since Kobe and Giana Bryant’s tragic passings, basketball players of all ages have opened up in a way that’s rarely seen. Their vulnerability has been refreshing.
“I got you today,” is what Celtics star Jayson Tatum texted to Kobe’s phone before Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, as he wore a Lakers-colored wristband with Bryant’s No. 24 on it.
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While moments like that exemplify how much Bryant was revered, and is missed by players, it also makes you question why more of them aren’t speaking up about Natalia’s situation. And that’s not to say that things haven’t been done in private. But, real love is apparent in front of and behind closed doors.
Last fall, Kobe’s family was in the news again when Los Angeles County requested that Vaness Bryant take a psych exam to prove her emotional distress claims after it had been revealed that the sheriff’s department’s internal investigation discovered that deputies shared photos of victims’ remains after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe, Giana, and seven others. Vanessa was then ordered by a judge to turn over her therapy records dating back to 2017 as part of her invasion of privacy lawsuit against L.A. County.
The same public silence around Natalia’s situation from the NBA and its players is the same kind that occurred when Vanessa was being put through the wringer by the legal system and law enforcement.
“When people use the ‘Mamba Mentality,’ you guys don’t do that,” Golden State Warriors General Manager Bob Myers recently said on the “All the Smoke” podcast about players using Bryant’s mantra. “You’re not him. Nobody should be allowed to say that. I’m sorry. There is nobody there like him.
“When people say that, it bothers me and I’m like, I don’t pretend like I do that, but I’m like, you don’t get to say that. That’s not a throwaway line. … I’m sorry, but that went with him. Come up with something else.”
A few months ago, Vanessa Bryant won her case against Los Angeles County to the tune of $16 million — and she donated the proceeds to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit that Kobe and Gianna were involved in that gives opportunities to underprivileged young athletes. The “Mamba Mentality” is alive and well within the Bryant household.
For the second time within the last year, two of the most important people in Kobe Bryant’s life have been faced with adversity. And, unfortunately, each time, it’s seemed like they’ve gone it alone without any help from the basketball world. Hopefully, support took place behind the scenes and continues to do so. But if it hasn’t, shame on every player that’s ever publicly referred to Kobe Bryant as a brother, mentor, or friend.
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