I went to Walmart and bought a PS4 a week ago. NBA 2K17 was the logical choice for my first game. I’ve been playing pretty frequently as of late, improving in skill and learning the mechanics and strengths of the game. I still lose to the computer, but then again no one is perfect, and neither is life.

Unless, of course, you were at the Staples Center on April 13, 2016.

Here we are, a year removed from Kobe Bryant’s last professional game, and I have to admit…the world is strange, or at least stranger.

Like I mentioned previously, my first basketball video game was NBA Live 2004. Kobe was rated at a 94 in that game, second highest in the game behind Kevin Garnett (97). Here I am now, 13 years later, and there are many stars missing.

In previous iterations of NBA Live, I had to use the Create-a-Player tool to incorporate guys like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Blake Griffin who came along after the GameCube stopped serving the series. Never would I ever imagine that I’d have to go back and recreate players who have since retired – much less, guys who were in their prime in 2004.

In NBA 2K17, for some reason, Kevin Garnett is still a member of the Minnesota TimberWolves (if you wait before updating the rosters). Despite his previous dominance, he is now a shell of his former self. Tim Duncan is nowhere to be found, which is probably for the best given the degradation of our beloved Big Ticket.

Kobe’s absence, however, is not necessarily complete. Like KG on the 2004 TimberWolves, Kobe lives on as a member of the 1998 and 2001 Lakers. But the notable absence of Derek Fisher from the 2001 Lakers (meaning that Lue is forced into the starting lineup…pitiful) means that the 2008-2010 Lakers are also unfulfilled. With these historical teams missing, we have no remnants of the cherished Black Mamba…#24.

And with the one year anniversary of his final game at hand, it becomes all that much clearer how much I really miss Kobe. This has been a tremendous year, full of storylines and statistics and records. Nevertheless, it is still lacking. There is a hole in my heart where Kobe used to be, and I fear that it may never be filled.

For memories’ sake I just re-watched his final game and his 81-point game, and this is my final takeaway (having been in attendance on April 13, 2016): these legendary, mythical, hard-to-believe-much-less-imagine events actually took place. This man – can I even call him that anymore – actually stepped foot on the greatest basketball court in the world and accomplished these feats. Unlike something like Neil Armstrong’s moon landing, there are people alive who can attest to these events’ legitimacy and that makes me marvel further.

Someday each of us may find ourselves in a situation beyond belief, and it is then that we can look back and smile and thank the heavens that we were allowed to witness something truly miraculous…for these moments are the rarest.

Austin Murphy
Austin served for over a year as the News Copy Editor for Inyourspeakers Media. He has spent time writing freelance for both the Central Valley Magazine and the Clovis Independent, and Austin currently writes for the Santa Barbara Independent Life and Arts sections and NBA Finals Revisited.