I planned on writing about the Super Bowl this week.
But tragically, one of the NBA’s brightest lights passed away on Sunday in a sudden helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Kobe Bryant died at the age of 41, months after having his fourth child. He is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and his other three daughters, Capri, Bianka, and Natalia.
Much like everyone else with an internet connection or a TV, I learned of Kobe’s tragic passing in tiny, tiny blips of jumbled up information. I was scrolling through Twitter, ranting about god-knows-what, when the news first broke from TMZ. Like most people, I assumed it was a hoax. It wasn’t. I thought my clock had stopped. It hasn’t set in. This doesn’t feel real.
Kobe’s obviously one of the greatest players to grace the hardwood. The subject of one too many debates, the Black Mamba himself, Kobe was larger than life, a superstar to a whole generation of basketball players. The hardest thing about Sunday, aside from the news, was watching grown men cry on the bench, watching some of today’s rising stars and veterans alike try to play through their grief– trying to play through the loss of an idol, a fellow sportsman, and for many, a friend.
Of course, as the week went on, tributes followed. On Tuesday night, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe’s other half of the famed Laker’s duo of the early and mid-2000s, eulogized him along with multiple others at the half-court line at the Staple’s Center– the House That Kobe Built. Kyrie Irving and Lebron James, Demar Derozan and Dwayne Wade, and countless other players spoke to the press or posted on social media about the passing of Kobe Bryant.
What I love about sports, particularly basketball, is its ability to unite people, to spark debate, to create living heroes. Kobe’s basketball mythos didn’t just impact the game, but it assisted in defining a generation of players and people. I grew up hearing kids shout “Kobe!” before launching a wadded up paper ball into a trashcan, epically failing at mimicking Kobe’s infamous fade-away jumper. I grew up watching him unleash complete and utter havoc on my beloved boys in silver and black, the San Antonio Spurs– for the longest time, the Spurs and Lakers always met in the Playoffs, resulting in intense duels on the hardwood. Players like Kobe do not come around often, and his sheer prominence to my generation makes his passing even more painful.
With his passing, I’ve been lamenting and thinking about how we all genuinely felt like we knew Kobe.
Obviously, not personally. I’m a seventeen-year-old Mexican and Korean kid from Oak Cliff with a love for the written word, but I feel like I knew him. His energy, his drive, his spirit– you could feel his soul in the way he played the game, the way he changed the game. He carried himself off and on the court with so much power, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. His impact on my generation and the one before it astounds me. His presence is beyond basketball.
Kobe Bryant reached all of us through his game and left all of us much like a fast-break drive to the rim– sudden and quick.
I have yet to cry in the last week. This doesn’t feel real enough to cry, let alone grieve. My clock is still stopped.