NBA legend Kobe Bryant coached a celebrity team on his visit to Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: I honestly didn’t know how to react when the sad news broke late on Sunday. I had just finished dinner with a few friends, and one of the topics was how sportspersons can influence our youngsters. Along with Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, Kobe Bryant was seen as one of those seen influencing the youth.

And as I saw the news breaking on reaching home, my mind went back to that week in September 2013 when Ahmad Bin Sulayem had invited Kobe to inaugurate the ‘Kobe Bryant Health and Fitness Weekend’ at the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) at Jumeirah Lake Towers.

I had been one of the handful promised with a one-on-one sitting with the legend. A couple of weeks prior to his arrival, I had done a telephone interview in which Kobe had displayed his enthusiasm on coming to the UAE for the very first time.

When he finally arrived, he had a bemused look on his face. Perhaps, he had never expected so many people to turn up with all sorts of merchandise, starting from basketballs to the famous No. 24 jerseys. Kobe went about patiently signing these while handing out T-shirts and other memorabilia to the crowd.

Finally, I was told that I was due for my five minutes with Kobe. The questions were ready and I was about to meet one of the legends of the sport when suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder with the words: “Come on young man. It’s your time now.”

Our interview went well past the promised five minutes, during which Kobe took the time to answer everything, including the not so comfortable queries on his past.

And when I walked away after those few minutes, I had an inclination why he was such a great person: here was someone who had found a way to live with himself in the most simple way.

Farewell Kobe Bryant. Many in the UAE will remember you.