INDIANAPOLIS — On Dec. 29, 2019, luck shined down upon Laviska Shenault Jr.
While attending a Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Lakers game at the Staples Center, as a courtesy of his soon-to-be agency, Klutch Sports Group, news came down that a couple of clients who were supposed to attend the game wouldn’t be making it.
This meant that Shenault was getting a seat upgrade. A big one. Courtside at Staples Center, a status symbol like no other, a place for L.A. royalty.
And when he got to those seats, he was met by the king of the city.
Kobe Bean Bryant.
Kobe and his beloved daughter Gianna were seated directly next to Laviska and agent Rich Paul as the Lakers defeated the Mavericks 108-95.
What nobody knew at the time, though, was that this would be the very last Lakers game ever attended by either Kobe or “Gigi.” As the world now knows, less than one month later, the two, along with seven others, would tragically die in a helicopter crash that seemed to tilt the earth off of its axis.
On Tuesday, at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Shenault opened up about that evening for the first time publicly.
“That was a very special moment,” he told DNVR. “I know he was a great father. He was a great dad.”
Kobe and Gigi were starting to pop up more and more in NBA arenas. The 13-year-old Bryant was quickly developing a Mamba-like obsession for the game, and the Mamba himself was becoming obsessed with sharing his wealth of knowledge with his daughter.
“He was great at just explaining what was going on,” Shenault explained of the interactions between the two. “He was a great family man, of course, everyone sees that. They were just talking the whole time. He was trying to help her understand things and they were just laughing and having a good time.”
On that night, Kobe was doing a couple of things that we now know meant a lot to him. First, was spending time with his daughter, but beyond that, he was helping a young, aspiring athlete.
This time, it was also his little girl, but in the wake of his death, it has become evident that the list of participants in all sports that connected with Kobe is nearly incomprehensible. From young girl’s basketball players to Jamal Murray to Von Miller and so far beyond, it seems everyone has a story of how he reached out, sent a text or shared an inspiring message.
And on this night, Shenault got his own Kobe memory to cherish for a lifetime.
“I actually haven’t been able to talk to anybody about this, but one of the talks we had—he had an Eagles hat on, and one of the things he said was, ‘Man, Philly sure needs a receiver,'” Laviska explained, raising his eyebrows and smirking in a way that helped you imagine the exact way Kobe delivered the line.
“That was so exciting for him to say that,” he added. “I responded with, ‘Aye, I can get the job done for you.’ That was a special moment.”
Interestingly enough, on Monday night in Indianapolis, an NFL source told DNVR that the Eagles have real interest in the Colorado product. But unfortunately, even if fate would have it, we’ll never get to see Kobe Bryant in a jersey that reads “Shenault Jr.” on the back.
“It definitely hit me hard,” Laviska shared of the shocking loss. “As the day went on, I was just like, ‘That’s crazy. That really happened. I just saw him… It hit me hard.”
What started as a stoke of luck, turned into with what tragically became a true once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I got the blessing to meet a great, legendary player and a great person as a whole.”