We all lost so much more than Kobe Bryant.
In basketball, we lost the player of a generation – the earliest basketball name I can remember. We lost the father of the modern era, and the first player to exact the megastar legacy after Michael Jordan. Bryant was a basketball deity, and he helped us usher in a new wave of players and how we would look at the game.
But in life, we lost something that can’t be weighed and measured.
You see, we can point to specific eras in time during the NBA’s history and say, “He was this generation’s Julius Erving,” or, “This guy took that move from Kobe.” You can debate his place in basketball. Whether or not you’re right, you can look at the numbers and the legacy and really put into context what he meant to the game.
But in life, and especially for this generation of fans – hell, this generation of people — you can’t measure what he means.
The day Kobe Bryant died, we lost the illusion of grandeur. We lost the illusion of immortality. We lost the illusion of superpowers and superheroes. We lost the idea of being “larger than life.”
If anyone could outwork Death, it would be Kobe. He wouldn’t cheat it or find a way around it. He would look it right in the face and work until he beat it. Then, afterward, he’d meet Death in an empty gym and help him work on his turnaround.
But he couldn’t do it – so where is the hope for the rest of us?
There are many still mourning a basketball great — people still interested in his highlights and his numbers right now. And that’s fair. Not everyone has to go much deeper than that. It’s just so hard to think of any of those things when it comes to his passing.
Kobe Bryant walked away from the game, not even four years ago, at only 38 years old. At 41 years old, the time of his passing, he was just getting started living life. He had so much left to do.
He didn’t retire and become a recluse or an enigma. He didn’t become bitter or an over-zealous TV talking head. He shared his love of the game and gave us his constructive, in-depth analysis. He showed us he was an artist, and always had been. He won an Oscar and an Emmy. He showed us that he was a person — much bigger than basketball.
Most importantly, he showed us that he was a father, first and foremost. He exuded love for his daughters and his wife. He was a coach for his daughter’s basketball team, and showed an interest in her love for the game far greater than probably any other human being could – the only way Kobe knew how. For many of us, the last image we have of him burned into our minds will be he and his daughter sitting courtside, lovingly and passionately discussing the game. He should always be remembered that way.
We saw him turn from basketball hero (or villain), into a man we were quick to claim as a father of our own. He was a man who was much more humble and caring in retirement than the unforgiving, uber-confident player persona he had his entire 20-year career.
He was happy.
There are those, like me, who are just mourning. I don’t want to talk about basketball. He died a husband and a father.
His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, died by his side that Sunday morning. As unreal as it is to lose a celebrity who meant so much to so many, there’s nothing in my mind that can grasp what it means to lose a husband and father, right next to his daughter, in an instant.
It makes us question life as we know it. It’s a grim, unfair, cruel reminder that we should never take the time that we have for granted. It’s a reminder than none of us are greater than fate.
Kobe Bryant was never supposed to die.
We were supposed to grow old with him and wonder if he’d ever grow old too. We were supposed to watch him continuously inspire the game, make a Hall of Fame speech, greet players in 2050 on the court as we told our grandkids, “You kids these days just don’t know about Bean.”
He was supposed to grow old with his wife. He was supposed to raise his daughters into the relentless, world-changing fighters that he was. Now, his wife, Vanessa Bryant, will have to do that without him and Gianna.
This one just hits differently. This one was never supposed to happen.
God damn, I miss Kobe Bryant.
Whether you agree or not with my sentiments — this literal existential crisis I’m having via a blog — I do encourage you to forgive those you are able to forgive and to always love those who mean most to you, because once they’re gone, you’ll never get them back. Life is short, and nothing is truly guaranteed.