Just like everyone, our family was stunned by the news of the early and sudden death of Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter. There were 9 in the helicopter so there are others that are suffering just as much with the loss of a family member. We pray for comfort for them also. I guess when you hear about the early death of a celebrity, everyone is so shocked because you almost feel like you know them. It’s no less shocking for a close family member that dies suddenly but with a well known person in the public eye, it is a collective shock and mourning from people all over the world. They are larger than life it seems, but we forget that they are people just like you and me and they are subject to the same things in this life….the good things and the bad things…the happy things and the sad things. Something like this brings home the frailty of life to everyone.
I still remember where I was when we heard the shocking news of the assassination of JFK way back in the 60s, also Princess Diana’s sudden death, Michael Jackson…and I will remember where I was when I heard this shocking news about 41 year old Kobe Bryant. It’s almost like time stands still for a second and your brain takes a snap shot of the shocking event the first time you hear it and it will stay in your memory forever. It is tragic. It is haunting. It is surreal and most of all, it’s just plain sad. It’s not suppose to happen like this at such a young age…especially for Kobe’s daughter who had her whole life ahead of her. Kobe and his daughter were close, as we could all see, and they had plans for their futures… but their future didn’t happen as they had planned. The same is true for the other passengers in that helicopter. Their families are grieving the loss of their loved ones just like the Bryants… but in a more private way.
The first time I remember hearing about Kobe Bryant was when I was home visiting my parents many years ago. We were a very sports-minded family so of course my father watched the sports channels all of the time. As we were watching, the channel was showing a young, cocky, 17 year old kid named Kobe Bryant, who they claimed would one day be a superstar in basketball. I remember my mother saying that she thought he had a cute smile. Well he did become a superstar and his smile was as iconic as he was. Not only did this young kid have the talent, but he had the drive and that insatiable will to win. I don’t think he ever lost it. I think the cockiness slightly mellowed over the years and he became a leader that inspired his teammates to be the best they could be. There were many people that were not fans of his at all, but fans or not, you can’t deny that he had amazing talent on the basketball court. He wasn’t a perfect man. He made mistakes, like all of us do, but he seemed to pull his life back together after some trouble in 2003 and became a good family man and especially a good attentive father. Life is about experiences, learning lessons and trying to be better. I think he did that.
He was very involved in his daughter’s basketball. She had his smile and I can imagine she had the same drive that he had too. As he was contemplating his future after his retirement I think he found a way to, not only be involved in the sport that he loved, but to also be a big part of his daughter’s life. He had 4 daughters that I bet he would have groomed to be great basketball players too. Who knows what he could have done for woman’s basketball. All of those plans were snuffed out with this tragic ending. But his legacy will always be here. The only bit of comfort that we can feel is that Kobe and his daughter went together and if you believe in an after life, like I do, I know that all 9 passengers in the helicopter are well and happy and still live. Time, the great healer will help those left behind but what a tough road they have to travel. My heart goes out to them…especially Kobe’s wife who lost a husband and a daughter.
When Jimmer played for the Sacramento Kings, our family was really excited for them to play against the LA Lakers because we knew we would see Kobe Bryant play in person. A very kind friend of ours let us sit in their court side seats which happened to be right next to the Lakers bench. Of course I was star struck and made sure I had my video camera. What a thrill for us to see Jimmer out there playing against all of those guys. It was almost surreal to see him play against one of his childhood idols in basketball. He actually had to guard Kobe for awhile. He did very well against him and he was the typical confident Jimmer out there. I can’t remember how many points he had but it was in the teens and he played very well. So exciting.
The next time the Kings played the Lakers it was away in the Staple Center. It just so happened that my son, TJ, and two friends of his, were in LA at the time and Jimmer was able to get them good seats. The Kings lost the game but Jimmer had a good game scoring 18 points in 12 minutes. It was exciting for TJ to see his brother doing so well against the Lakers. It didn’t matter that they lost the game, because like a true good brother, he was just there to support and cheer for Jimmer.
I was watching the game on television and at the end when they shake hands, I noticed that Kobe said something to Jimmer… so being the curious Mom, I asked Jimmer what he said. He told me that Kobe said to him “Nice shooting young fella.” That meant a lot to Jimmer coming from one of the greatest shooters in the league and it probably means a lot more to him now. After hearing that encouraging, gracious comment from Kobe to my son, he became one of my favorite players and I’ve never forgotten it. He also tweeted out something to Jimmer, on the Chinese equivalent of our Twitter, after Jimmer scored 75 pts for Shanghai. Kobe respected the talents of others and he obviously noticed Jimmer’s scoring abilities. I know that Jimmer appreciated the kindness and acknowledgement from Kobe to him. It meant a lot.
So rest in peace Kobe Bryant, his daughter and the other passengers…. and God bless and comfort those left behind.
I will show you some pictures and video that I took sitting near the Lakers bench. I think my daughter Lindsay was sitting next to me just as thrilled as I was. The first video I took of Jimmer all alone in the middle of the court. It was a packed house that night with lots of excitement. The year before Jimmer had just come off being voted college player of the year and had a lot of fans and of course Kobe was a legend in basketball already. I always wondered what Jimmer was thinking about being out there with one of his favorite childhood players. He grew up being in the limelight on the basketball court so I think he probably just took it all in stride like all of the professional players. What a thrill for him and I’m sure the memories of it mean more to him now that Kobe is gone.
You will see in one of these videos that the Lakers coach stood in front of me a lot of the time but it was kind of interesting listening to him complain to the refs. They are all just short clips and a little blurry but you get the idea of what I was seeing. Wish I had taken more. This was a good Lakers team with Kobe, Derek Fischer, Luke Walton, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake etc.
Take care everyone.