LAMENTING THE LOSS OF KOBE BRYANT WILL GO ON AS WE CONTINUE REMEMBERING HIM
So. It’s hard to write about loss. But it’s especially hard to write about loss that’s hard to describe, hard to identify. I first heard about Bryant’s death in the helicopter crash from a friend, moments before the news cascaded from everywhere. I was stunned, in denial even. That combination seems to have been fairly common. It’s been a couple days now and it still seems like a bad dream. But, obviously, it’s not. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others passed away tragically. That reality is inescapable, like all loss; like all tragic loss. But Kobe Bryant now being gone seems especially, even mysteriously, hard for so many. It’s certainly taken the wind out of my spiritual sails since I heard. And I keep chewing on why. The answers to that question seem to keep piling up. Maybe that’s why I’m writing about lamenting a future without him. Remembering him is all we can now do.
REMEMBERING KOBE MEANS REMEMBERING HIS AMAZING SUCCESS, DESPITE DEEP LOWS
I’m a bit older than Bryant was when he died two days ago. So I remember thinking of him as an upstart when he splashed on the NBA scene as a teenager. Having never, ever, been a Laker fan, it was easy for me to simply dismiss Bryant, even as his game and name grew. Yet I still learned enough about him to know that he was refitting Michael Jordan’s shoes as his own. Despite the impossibility of that, Bryant was the only one to try who succeeded. And succeed he did. But, oddly, I wasn’t a Mamba fan until the allegations of rape back in 2003. Yes, I know that sounds odd. Despite the fact that he cheated on his wife, despite his settling a civil case, I became a Kobe fan. Why?
KOBE TRANSCENDED, TRANSLATED HIS COMPETITIVE DRIVE INTO HUMAN INTERESTS, FAMILY LIFE
Well, because it should never have been a national story, for one. I won’t delve int all the sordid details, because this stuff is, indeed, sordid. But despite NOT being a Kobe fan, I found that I was defending this rich, successful African American man from the instant, contemptuous condemnation from many of my white friends. And, yes, I too am white. But for a while there, I played hoops at a high enough level that I understood what Kobe was the more I learned about him. Being a competitor can be ugly. Being a competitor at that level is… something else. But being a competitor at Kobe’s level is a level almost no one gets to. And for most who do, the ego tied to the unflattering aspects don’t go away. And when the outlet to feed that is gone (i.e. retirement), the ugliness just gets uglier. Always.
LAMENTING LOSS OF KOBE MEANS APPRECIATING HIS AMAZING, UNLIKELY PERSONAL EVOLUTION
But not for Kobe Bryant. Bryant’s evolution away from basketball began before he retired. Kobe seemed to know that he had to grow beyond basketball to be…. sane. And happy. He committed to family life in the most serious way. In fact, he started using helicopters to travel because he didn’t want to miss being a part of his family’s life. He decided that his family was his life. Well, and his interests, too. Since his retirement, Kobe kept busy with all sorts of personal work. He invested in his creative pursuits. But also with his personal investments: family, friends, basketball, community, women’s sports, the LGTBQ community, etc.
Kobe’s Last Game:
KOBE NEVER LOST SIGHT OF REALIZING HIS GOALS AND DREAMS, GREW INTO HUMILITY WITH LOVE OF LIFE
Kobe took all the insane intensity from his basketball world as a competitor and translated it, cleanly, into a life we’re only beginning to appreciate and understand. That’s what keeps bothering me about his loss. It likely always will. But again, why? Because most people don’t evolve so…. consistently. Kobe had just begun expanding his post-basketball identity in ways that would only have made the world a more interesting and better place. It’s obvious, painfully so. And one thought among the dozens I keep having is this. As Kobe would have grown as a father to his daughters, his vision of their needs as women and citizens would have expanded apace. With the country and the world being what they are, Kobe would inevitably have decided he needed to take action for his daughters’ future.
LAMENTING KOBE SHOULD MEAN REMEMBERING THE INSPIRATION HE PROVIDED THE WORLD
So no, obviously I don’t know how that would have manifested. But given what we are starting to understand now about him, do you think he would underachieve as a U.S. senator? Do you think he would lose an election in California? We’ll never really know. Now, Kobe is a figure from history whose absence will reverberate for some time. Mamba, I’m sorry not to have known you. But I’m especially sorry to miss out on what you were becoming.