Sunday afternoon I was at my mother’s house visiting. We were watching TV, laying low. I pulled out my phone to check into social media and while scrolling through Facebook, I saw one stray “RIP Kobe” status.
Kobe Bryant, the five-time NBA champion and former MVP, made headlines just the night before when LeBron James passed him for third all-time in points scored.
I assumed it was somehow related, not that “RIP Kobe” would fit the context, but I just figured somehow, some way, the status was related to that story.
I Googled his name, and saw TMZ and other outlets beginning to post the headlines.
“Kobe Bryant dead in helicopter crash.”
What a gut punch.
Death is a part of life, and unfortunately, tragic loss occurs all the time. What made this different though was the circumstances.
For most people, in fact, the vast majority of people, riding in a helicopter is abnormal. I’ve never been in a helicopter and can’t recall a single person I know that has been in one.
The nature of the accident was unusual and disturbing.
As the headlines began to spread and more outlets began covering the incident, we then learned that his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was one of the nine victims as well. There were even victims with local ties on board, it was just a horrible, horrible incident that is still rocking the sports world.
Every few years, maybe even less than that, there will be a celebrity death that shocks the entire world. Unfortunately on Sunday, we had to add another to the list.
Everyone is still processing it, there is still plenty of investigating and reporting to be done, but we are currently in the middle of one of the biggest stories in the history of sports.
Bryant retired back in 2016. He was a champion, an MVP, simply put, he was an all-time great in the NBA. Since then, he has been working on various different projects including his own travel basketball academy, which he was on his way to visit at the time of the crash. He even went on to win an Academy Award for his animated short film “Dear Basketball.”
Whenever an athlete, especially one of his caliber, retires, it is always intriguing to see where they go.
Some enjoy their millions and fade into obscurity, intentionally or unintentionally. Some stay in their respective sports as coaches, front office administrators, TV analysts. Some go on to pursue other ventures completely unrelated to sports.
Kobe did a little bit of everything, but ultimately, it all came back to one thing: basketball.
As a Celtics fan, Kobe was always a guy that I rooted against while he played.
At the same time, if I could choose one player to build a team around, he may be my top choice other than Michael Jordan.
He epitomized what it meant to be a competitor. Every game was game 7 in his eyes, losing was not an option.
He demanded the best out of himself as well as his team each day. There were stories of him even pushing his teammates to tears in practice with how hard he would push, physically and mentally.
Was he intense? Yes, but that is why he walked away from the sport with five rings and a first-ballot hall of fame resume.
He was not free of controversy, having been involved in a well-documented sexual assault case. On this day though, I do not feel that it is appropriate to delve into this further.
What I love most about sports is the competition.
Some people watch sports for the high-flying, talented super humans. Others watch for the personalities and the larger-than-life personas. I am one of those people that love watching the best of the best compete and lay everything on the line each day.
That was Kobe Bryant.
On the court, off the court, basketball was everything to him. He didn’t have a switch where he could turn it off. Basketball was his life.
It’s hard not to respect someone that is that devoted to a profession. It is even harder to not respect someone that earned the results that he did. His successes were a direct result of the work he put in. He was a generational talent, for sure, but in this case, his work ethic is what led him to being a legend.
What also hurts is the fact that he was on his way to accomplishing incredible things, and had a family that inherited his famous “Mamba Mentality.”
Kobe’s academy has been emerging in the past year, he supposedly had interest in pursing further film projects, he was still a global ambassador for the NBA and the Los Angeles Lakers. Gianna was also on her way to becoming a special talent on the floor as well.
At just 41 years of age and with so many successes on the horizon, it’s tragic to see it all vanish so quickly.
I know it’s cliché, but never take life for granted and treat every day like it’s your last. It can be taken away at any moment, and it’s heartbreaking that situations such as this are what remind us of that sometimes.
Rest in peace Kobe, Gianna, and all of the other victims. Thoughts and condolences to the families involved as well.