It was just four months ago that Kobe Bryant was at Orange Coast College.
Like many other children’s book authors, Bryant spoke at the 16th annual OC Children’s Book Festival held on campus. Unlike others, Bryant was interviewed by OCC English teacher and Children’s Literature instructor Chris Evans.
Following Bryant’s death last month, Evans recalled talking to Bryant before interviewing him in front of an estimated 1,500 people. Evans said he had attended the book festival for many years and had never seen an audience like that. The arts building stage “was just filled with Kobe fans — big, small, old, young,” Evans said.
As a father of a 19 year old and 15 year old, Evans said he felt most connected to Bryant as a dad. Evans remembered that of the 25 minutes he talked to him privately, Bryant spent 10 of those minutes talking about his daughters, their love of books, of Harry Potter, of athletics and his love for them.
Evans said he was impressed with how often Bryant talked about wanting to have an impact on his daughters’ lives and have a positive influence. He also wanted to extend that to other kids who didn’t have opportunities, whether he gets that across through music, film or writing.
“In the 25 minutes I spoke to him before the big interview, he was so much more creative, so much more intelligent than I could have ever imagined,” Evans said.
In the short author biography in the back of Bryant’s children’s book “Legacy and the Queen,” Bryant is described as an “Academy award winner, a New York Times best-selling author, the CEO of Granity Studios,” and then it mentions, “In a previous life, Kobe was a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, and two-time Olympic gold medalist.”
When ready to interview Bryant, Evans said his anxiety raised when he realized he had forgotten to bring his pad of questions on stage with him, but Bryant recognized the problem and gave him encouraging words that helped him begin.
Tears came to his 15-year-old son’s eyes when hearing the tragic news of Bryant’s death, Evans said.
“It’s not many times you get to be around genius and for a brief little moment have a conversation on a different level with someone who truly was able to do one thing brilliantly and contribute in a much greater sense.”
In addition to Bryant, Evans remembered the others lost in the helicopter crash that killed Bryant and his daughter Gianna, as well as OCC baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa.
“What a tremendous loss. The campus, we are all grieving. We lost a beloved faculty member who impacted the lives of everyone around him,” Evans said.