Kobe Bryant lost his life yesterday as result of an accidental helicopter crash while taking his daughter, her teammate and parents to a basketball game. Although he was an athlete, everybody knew him as a true icon of this generation. His death has been painfully difficult for us all to accept.
From the heartbreaking images of basketball players embracing each other with tears in their eyes, mourning the loss of their idol and mentor, to the vigils and memorials taking place at the arena he called home for twenty years, the world is mourning together.
To be honest, I’m at a loss for words. How could we lose somebody so impactful so tragically and unexpectedly? Why are we all mourning Bryant as though we personally knew him? Why did the world lose him?
Kobe Bryant was the type of athlete everybody knew and respected.
His talent was undeniable and easy to watch, and his Mamba Mentality was inspirational. He was one of the hardest-working athletes of all time, which showed in his success on and off the court. Bryant didn’t just work 24/7; he worked 24/8 (his two numbers in the NBA).
Bryant’s passing has left us in disbelief, and so we’re sharing our heartbreak and mourning together.
And in addition to being a stellar athlete, Bryant was also an uplifting public figure. He made you want to achieve more in your own life, even if you didn’t have a connection to him. His warm, reassuring smile always reminded viewers, “You’ve got this,” just like he did.
Many in the sports world praised his character. No one could match his standard of excellence. He had a positive outlook on life, an unwavering focus, optimism for humanity, and empathy for everyone around him. Just a week before he died, he witnessed a car accident in LA and stayed behind to ensure that the survivors were safe. He even helped re-direct traffic. If that isn’t an example of his utter kindness, I don’t know what is.
He also fostered such a personal connection with fans from around the world. He’s stayed the same man from the moment the NBA drafted him in 1996.
Millennials grew up with his face plastered everywhere.
Kids wore his jersey, mimicked his playing style on the court, and played Kobe in video games so they could achieve his success. We idolized him. And I don’t think we will stop throwing paper in the garbage like we’re shooting a basketball and yell “Kobe!”
He was aware of his impact and led by example. He never dwelled on the past or on anything that didn’t matter. Instead, he moved forward, hoping to change the future for the better. His purpose never changed, and his message stayed loud and clear: We need to work together to make the world a better place in whatever way we can.
His dedication to improving the place that sculpted him as an athlete and a young man is also incredibly admirable.
He started numerous charities in the Los Angeles community to combat homelessness and encourage children to play sports. He was also one of the first athletes to openly support women’s sports.
His love story was humbling and normal- one we wished we could have, too. In 1999, at 21 years old, he met Vanessa, the love of his life. Six months later, he popped the question, and they married in 2001. They went on to have four children: Natalia, 17; Gianna, 13; Bianka, 3; and Capri, 7 months. And throughout their marriage, they remained loyal and committed to raising strong children.
For me, I really admired the type of love Kobe had for his daughters. He grew up with two sisters, so his parents taught him how to respect women. And when the all-star player became a father, he took that role extremely seriously.
Most professional athletes’ lives revolve around their respective sports, but Kobe made time for his daughters. From volunteering as a parent coach for their basketball and volleyball teams to completing the morning drop offs at school, Kobe did it all because he genuinely wanted to. He even gave his children their own special nicknames because that’s what dads do.
Kobe Bryant always showed pride in his kids and publicly praised them as much as he could. He frequently attended games with them, encouraged them on the sidelines, and mentioned them in interviews. His now-famous Jimmy Kimmel clip shows the pride he has in his children, especially Gianna, who passed away in the helicopter crash with him.
As a daddy’s girl, the story surrounding his death really hurts. It reminds me of the similar bond I shared with my dad as he shared with his daughters. It breaks my heart knowing that Kobe passed away with his little girl next to him. I can’t imagine the pain he felt knowing that he couldn’t protect her like he always had.
Seeing the outpouring of condolences and memories everyone’s sharing on social media has also been hard to accept. Reading Shaquille O’Neal’s heartfelt post about the type of friend Bryant crushed me. Hell, an hour before Shaq died, he reached out to Shaq’s son to see if he was struggling. Kobe Bryant was so damn nice, and he involved himself with everyone he cared about.
The pain of losing Kobe is difficult to express. Not only did a family lose a son, husband and father, but the world lost a role model. It still hasn’t sunk in, and I don’t think it will for a while.
Instead, this is a reminder that we take life for granted every single day. This is our reminder to catch up with everyone we can, embrace others when we see them, and always tell our family and friends that we love them.
If you’re mourning Kobe Bryant’s death, remember the joy he brought to your life when you watched him play. Those highlight reels will bring back the nostalgia and comfort you might need in this time. Bryant and his spirit will always remain this earth.
Kobe Bryant, thank you for making our lives a little bit better and bringing us endless joy.
Featured Photo via Instagram.