Dear Kobe | The Photo Essay

Gabriel Lee
Dec 27, 2017 · 5 min read
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Wow.

Monday, December 18th turned out to be the most emotionally rewarding night of my young life.

Having not been in attendance for Kobe Bryant’s last game vs. the Utah Jazz, I decided long ago that I would be there (STAPLES Centre, Downtown Los Angeles) for his jersey retirement ceremony — regardless of what sacrifices I had to make to manifest that dream.

So, when the Los Angeles Lakers basketball club announced that both the #8 and #24 would be immortalized back in September, I booked a single-day business trip. 24 hours with #24 .

And what an unforgettable day it was. To experience the mass congregation of the global Kobe Bryant community in-person was powerful beyond measure. The volume of fans gathered in a condensed area (“Kobeland”), to celebrate a man, who meant something uniquely different to each one generated a once-in-a-lifetime atmosphere.

One that couldn’t be replicated through consuming it on television.

The night before I flew out to LAX, I penned a letter to Kobe to articulate what he had and will continue to mean to me. What you’ll find below is the visual representation of it.

Thus, as the Holiday season comes to a close — along with the Kobe Bryant chapter of my life — I’ve learnt that the most important lesson I can draw from this trip is to find experiences that YOU love and to cherish them.

Enjoy the gallery.

Respectfully,

— Gabe Lee, December 26, 2017

Founder of Gaber Inc.

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Foreword:

A year has passed since I commuted to California to help an old friend document an incredibly important day for him. In reflection, the fact that a year has already been spent is a testament to how fleeting time can be as that day a year ago feels like it is a small “stone’s throw” away.

When Gabe approached me to make images and accompany him on what he considered a personal pilgrimage, I jumped at the opportunity. The opportunity to help a friend to define/redefine and vividly remember his story, to navigate the quiet internal meanderings of a childhood hero moving on, and to document and celebrate what “it” all means is a privilege I have not taken for granted.

Photography has given me a new lease on life and a beautiful opportunity to take Time’s control over all of us back and hold it still. Holding Time still, even if only momentarily, or being allowed to tell a story through one image or a sequence of images, has become my platform for learning about myself and others. It has afforded me the chance to collect what I see and how I see it.

Photography has been a continuous opportunity to thank Life for the constant reminder to centre myself and steadily be ready for the acknowledgement of its emotions, departures, understandings, highlights, contrasts, forgiveness and healing.

Gabe is cerebral to say the least and I am inspired by his quest for knowledge-of-self and genuine intention of giving through every interaction and opportunity to influence others in a positive way.

I am happy that a year later the images I made for Gabe continue to be significant to him. I hope that in the years to come the images also evolve with him. Or perhaps begin to tell a new story or serve as a reminder about that time he went to say goodbye to a mentor and set out on his own adventure of self-discovery and purpose.

Alex Townsend, December 18, 2018.


10:38 AM: Dear Kobe,
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7:41 PM: Tomorrow night at 7:30 pm, we’ll partake in a ritual that you and I have gone through hundreds, perhaps even a thousand, times: a basketball game.
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11:22 AM: This time to say goodbye.
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3:23 PM: When #8 and #24 are hoisted to the rafters of the sporting arena you turned into your personal orpheum…
3:34 PM: … it will officially mark the end of our relationship in its current form.
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4:14 PM: As a young boy who immigrated to Vancouver, Canada from Hong Kong at the age of seven 18 years ago, I possessed a minimal sense of belonging derived from linguistic, familial and cultural barriers.
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12:37 PM: But then I found Basketball.
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11:20 AM: And through it, I found YOU.
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12:39 PM: Although I struggled to identify the symbolism used in ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ I was able to comprehend the concept of throwing an orange sphere into a slightly larger one.
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3:06 PM: YOU gave a seven-year-old kid from Quarry Bay, Hong Kong a purpose in life. Bestowing the invaluable values of hard work, ambition and determination along the way.
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3:18 PM: Throughout the past 20 years, you have felt like an extended member of my family. WE experienced the full spectrum of human emotion together. From those nights against Utah — the infamous airballs in 1997 and of course 60 points in your curtain call — to the nights where fewer members of Lakers Nation watched — like the inconsequential final duel between yourself and Tim Duncan on February 19, 2016. A game where you dislocated the middle finger of your shooting hand, had Gary pop it back into place, checked back into the game, and made your next shot.
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2:55 PM: Unlike you with Basketball, I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to let you go…
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4:32 PM: … as outside of my Mother, YOU taught me the most, and will eternally remain a part of my psychological makeup. But thankfully, you have remained in the public eye post-retirement, continuing to find ways to inspire me through a different lense — the business world.
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4:45 PM: Much like you said six weeks ago at Complex Con: “it’s a very simple quest. These next 20 years need to better than the previous 20. If Basketball is the best thing I’ve done in my life, then I’ve failed.”
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3:34 PM: You can count on me to carry on your legacy of Mamba Mentality, and to pass it along to the next generation through the next chapter of my life.
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6:39 PM: We have both given each other all that we have. And we both know, no matter what I do next…
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12:18 PM: … I’ll always be that kid sitting two feet away from the TV set, head buried within the collar of my Champion-branded #8 jersey, as the Ball left your fingertips against Phoenix at the right elbow. 5 … 4 … 3 … 2… 1.
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4:26 PM: You never asked for my fandom. I gave you heart, because it came with so much more.
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7:11 PM: See you tomorrow night. Love you always, Gabe.

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10:38 PM: Mamba Out. Gaber In. You’ve done your part, now it’s up to the rest of us. (Bonus passage)

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