At the top of Monday’s episode of “The Tonight Show,” Jimmy Fallon took a moment to remember Kobe Bryant by telling the audience about the time he went on a beer run with a then-teenage Kobe.
As Fallon told it, he was 21 and “just starting out” in the Los Angeles comedy scene when he found himself at a party where he started randomly talking to a young man he quickly learned was then-rookie Laker Kobe Bryant. (This would have been the summer of 1996, before Fallon’s 22nd birthday and right after Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets and immediately traded to the Lakers.)
Fallon says he and Bryant hit it off immediately, so much so that when someone at the party asked if anyone would go on a beer run, Bryant asked Fallon if he’d like to come along. (Fallon swears Bryant didn’t drink then since he was still a teenager.) So the pair climbed into a car and made their way to Pink Dot, the former delivery convenience store chain that now has a single shop in West Hollywood.
The problem, as L.A. newcomers Bryant and Fallon soon discovered, is that Pink Dot was delivery only, meaning the clerks were forbidden from selling anything including beer on site. Luckily, Kobe Bryant wasn’t just any rando dropping by the store. According to Fallon, Kobe pulled out his ID and told the Pink Dot clerk “I’m a Laker,” which secured them immediate access to the store.
“So we saved the party, we say goodnight and of course Kobe went on to become a legend. Five NBA titles, two Olympic gold medals, 18 All-Star appearances. One of the most brilliant and respected players in NBA history,” Fallon said, choking back tears. “And when we ran into each other over the years, we’d laugh about the time that we first met. We’d laugh at all the good things that have happened since. And we’d laugh about how much fun it was to raise kids, all the stupid mistakes we made trying to figure out how to be good dads.”
“Kobe had four daughters and I had two daughters, and today he and one of his daughters are gone,” Fallon continued.”But I think I knew Kobe well enough to know that he rose to any challenge by digging deeper and getting back to work. So let’s honor Kobe, Gianna, and the other lives that were lost yesterday by following his example. Love your family, love your teammates, and outwork everyone else in the gym.”
Fallon concluded by addressing Bryant’s wife, Vanessa and “all those affected by this tragedy. We love you and will always be there for all of you. Kobe, when we meet again, we’re going on a beer run.”
Watch it all above.