Older generations remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated. This holds true for this generation. They will remember where they were when NBA legend Kobe Bryant died along with his oldest daughter and several others in a helicopter crash.
I was with my family driving to the Miami Beach Convention Center to attend the NFL Super Bowl Experience. My wife told me and I couldn’t believe it. A punch to the gut was an understatement. Not believing what I heard I frantically scoured Twitter for any mention of it, hoping it was false news, and there it was: Kobe Bryant dead at age 41 in helicopter crash.
My initial reaction was to pray that none of this family was onboard, but ultimately his oldest daughter, Gianna or Gigi as he called her, was. Only 13 and that hurt even more. I could only picture him, protecting his daughter, telling her everything was going to be ok knowing that it ultimately wouldn’t. As a parent that hit me the hardest. It me hard because my oldest and his were similar and age as well as my youngest and his. It hit me because I’m 40 and he is 41. Life isn’t guaranteed for anyone, including NBA legends.
I haven’t been moved this much from an athlete death since Ted Williams died years ago. I was there at Fenway Park for the first game after his death. The number 9 cut into the grass of center field and Nomar Garciaparra just staring into it with eyes filled with tears. Grown men around in the stands just sobbing uncontrollably.
As a Celtics fan you rooted against the Lakers, but I could never root against Kobe. A maestro with the ball and that killer attitude few athletes possess made it impossible to hate his game. Sure he could miss 29 out of 30 shots, but the one shot he did make was the one that broke your team’s back.
My fondest memory of Kobe wasn’t his 81 points in a game or his final game, but game 4 of the 2010 NBA Finals. I was seven rows from the court watching Kobe up close and personal. I saw him a few more times in person, but to see Kobe in the NBA Finals was the one memory that will always stick with me.
Was Kobe a perfect person? No, but none of us are. He did, to his credit, did find ways to learn about his mistakes to ensure he never made them again. He worked on being a better basketball player, but more importantly, he worked on being a better man for his family.
When he retired, we lost a legend on the court, but his daughter gained the best coach she could ever ask for, the Black Mamba himself. She wanted to grow up to play in the WNBA and all your saw of Kobe in retirement was with his daughter dissecting games court side or helping he put up shots in the gym. The love they shared for the game made their bond as parent and child strong and it showed,
As the news of their death reverberated through NBA arenas, players were shook in disbelief. Images of players openly weeping the loss of their idol, their friend and legend were spreading through out. Teams were taking 24 second clock violations in honor of Kobe. Kobe’s sneakers were being worn in tribute even by players endorsed by other brands. Its a testament to what he meant to the game.
Basketball aside, his family and the families of all those onboard are forever changed. A husband and father will never come home again. A daughter and sister gone at the young age of 13. That is where the most pain resides. In knowing that a family has been shattered and that young children were involved. As parents that is our worst fear, that something would happen to our children and we would have to live the rest of lives with that piece of our heart missing.
As the tributes pour in, former players remember his greatness and fans recall their favorite memories of Kobe, we are reminded that life isn’t guaranteed for any of us. Superstars, postal workers, school kids. Life is not promised tomorrow. We focus on the trivial and petty when we should focus on the present moment because that is all we have. That is all that we are given with. Let’s not waste it because it can all be taken from us in a flash.
If you want to honor Kobe Bryant do so with the Mamba mentality. Continue to get and be better. Don’t apologize for who you are and don’t waste another second on the past. Focus on the now so you can be better tomorrow, if you get that opportunity to see tomorrow. His legacy and legend will live on. His death should serve as a reminder to love your loved ones and to work on your legacy.
In the final words of Kobe Bryant after an illustrious career, “Mamba out.”