Kobe McComber’s family history with lacrosse goes back generations. It has in many ways shaped his youth and been a part of his life since he could remember.
“I’ve played ever since I was able to hold a stick, or walk,” said McComber. His father, Eric “Dirt” McComber, was the driving force behind his initiation to lacrosse, who was introduced to lacrosse by his own father, Jimmy “Flo” McComber, back in the 1960s.
Now in just a few months, Kobe will be setting off to British Columbia to debut his senior lacrosse career.
The 21-year-old Kahnawa’kehró:non was drafted in the fifth round, 34th overall, to the Coquitlam Senior Adanacs in British Columbia in the Western Lacrosse Association (WLA).
“B.C. is just like a whole different world. I think I’d rather play B.C. than anywhere else,” he said. “My father and my grandfather played lacrosse in B.C., so it really means a lot.”
For Eric, instilling an affinity for lacrosse in his sons was about keeping a part of their culture alive. “I told my sons that you’re from here. You should be able to play this game or want to play this game. Because one day you’ll have sons and you would want them to play also. That’s how I look at it anyway,” he said.
“What I’m most excited about is just really just stepping back on the floor. It’s been a little while,” said Kobe, who hasn’t played since he participated in the playoffs with the Junior Adanacs last June.
Although the team lost, Kobe left a lasting impression on Scott Wortley, general manager for both the Junior and Senior Coquitlam Adanacs.
“We thought about putting him on the offensive end just to maybe change it up because he’s a big body – strong, smart, willing to go to the dirty areas. And man, did he ever impress us with that,” recalled Wortley.
One particular moment in their final game stuck with him till now. “He picked up a loose ball and he fired it at the net and he scored. It was just amazing. It was so cool,” recalled Wortley. “As upsetting as it was to lose, having him score that goal just kind of had his junior career cap captured there.”
Wortley is excited to have Kobe on the roster for the upcoming season, set to begin late May. “His maturity, his insight, his passion for the game, his respect for the game. Everything about him is just great,” he said, noting his versatility on the team and drive to succeed make him a stand-out player.
But Kobe’s path in lacrosse has been anything but a straight one. Once he graduated from minor lacrosse with the Kahnawake Mohawks, he took a four-year hiatus, during which he focused on hockey before returning to lacrosse later on.
“It’s been sort of a dirt road, very rugged,” he said. He came back to play for the Kahnawake Hunters, where he began his junior lacrosse career. Through his journey re-entering the game, a select handful of coaches and friends were immense pillars of support and influenced Kobe to go on. One of them is his older brother, Jamie McComber.
“It was really something to watch Kobe play. He’s very athletic, very fast, very strong,” Jamie said, noting that his brother’s work ethic and attitude are some of his remarkable qualities.
“I couldn’t even put it into words. I’m very excited,” Jamie said on learning Kobe got drafted by the WLA. “Could ‘envious’ be in there?” he added jokingly.
Jamie, just like his four other brothers, also played lacrosse from a young age, encouraged by his father to take up the sport. “Wherever the game is, that’s where we go,” recalled Jamie on how his father took him and his siblings all over for lacrosse and whose father had done the same for him.
All five of Eric’s sons, Kobe being the youngest of all seven siblings, have been coached by him. “I don’t watch the game just as his dad, you know? Because I’m a coach. I’ve been coaching for a long time,” said Eric, adding he doesn’t hold back from commenting on his son’s play.
“But [Kobe] does have discipline. And he knows what to do, when to do it. And he’s a team player.… In this game you win as a team, you lose as a team. And I have a saying: if you wanna be selfish, you do that on a breakaway,” said Eric. “You gotta watch for your teammates and help your teammates every shift that you’re on the floor. And Kobe has that.”
Aside from Kobe’s noteworthy traits as a player, the person behind the impressive figure on the field was just as striking to Wortley, who appreciated Kobe’s openness towards younger players who came to watch their games.
“He would just embrace them and just take them in and talk about the game and his background. And he’s got the old traditional wooden stick, and that opens the door for questions, and it’s just a really neat sort of dynamic,” said Wortley.
Whether at home or across the country in B.C., those standing behind the young local athlete are eager to watch him step into this new beginning.
His father is looking forward to heading to the west coast to watch some of the games where the family has long-standing ties. “The game is a part of who we are,” said Eric. “It’s a really big part of our family, our upbringing.”