Fuster family with Kobe Bryant at Lakers training facility in 2011 (Dave Fuster/Courtesy)
Dave Fuster, a husband and father of two, met the legend Kobe Bryant in 2011 through the Make-A-Wish foundation after his 16-year-old son Jacob (pictured to Kobe’s right) was diagnosed with a chronic disease.
“Some representatives called us and said that Jacob qualifies for Make-A-Wish, and that he should write down his top three wishes,” said Dave Fuster. “His first wish was to meet Kobe Bryant.”
Once his top wish was approved, a limousine was scheduled to take the entire family to a dinner and Lakers game, where they would have the opportunity to meet Kobe. As they were waiting in the locker room after the game, a Lakers representative notified them that Kobe was unable to make it due to an emergency.
“We all sat there and were like, okay this has to be a joke,” said Fuster. “Unfortunately it wasn’t.”
A week later the family received a call from the Lakers organization, inviting them to watch a practice at their facility in El Segundo and to bring items that they want Kobe to sign. Jacob and his family brought suitcases full of basketballs, shoes and hats.
Nine years later, the longtime Lakers fan and Kobe fanatic Dave Fuster is still able to remember all the little details from that day. He and his family watched the Lakers practice from a bench, and afterwards, the entire team approached them for pictures and autographs.
“We got to meet Luke Walton, Bynum and a couple of rookies who aren’t even on the team anymore,” said Fuster.
They met privately with Kobe in a separate room, where he talked to them about his family, his grandmother and his pregame meal, which always consisted of mashed potatoes, salmon and asparagus. Kobe signed a brand new pair of his Kobe 6 shoes for Jacob, which Dave Fuster still keeps in the box today, having never been worn or scratched.
In his two decades with the Lakers, Kobe granted over 200 visits to Make-A-Wish recipients. Despite these many requests, he was able to make each encounter with a fan personable.
“He was just a really, really nice guy,” said Fuster. “He was one of those guys that when you talked to him you just felt like you were the only guy in the room with him.”
The family continues to be devoted fans and frequently makes the “Kobe meal” of salmon, mashed potatoes and asparagus for dinner. While Jacob continues to live with his illness, his and his father’s love for the Lakers remains a bond between them.
“One thing that Jacob and I always remember, is that after we were done and we left, we felt this weird feeling in our gut because we didn’t want to leave him,” said Fuster. “We left there and we were like wow, that’s probably the last time that we are ever going to meet Kobe.”
After hearing the news of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and his daughter Gianna, Dave Fuster and his son were brought to tears. Kobe Bryant’s death impacted fans from all over the world, but for Jacob and Dave it felt more personal.