My brother died a month ago. His death left an ache in my heart that has not yet gone away. Then came the helicopter crash and my heart broke again. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others died in the crash.
The night before, LeBron James surpassed his scoring record. Kobe immediately sent congratulations to LeBron. That’s the way Kobe was. He’d moved on from his own playing days and was encouraging others to achieve their personal best.
Kobe was one of the greatest players of all time. No matter who scores more in the future, that is the way many of us will remember him. Though he’s gone, there’s no question that his place in the Basketball Hall of Fame was pre-determined and well-deserved.
No matter the achievements of future great players, Kobe owns a place on the list of basketball’s greatest. When he was on the court, his invincibility was infectious. We felt invincible because we knew he was going to give his best and his best so often meant a victory for his fans.
Kobe said, “If you do the work and work hard enough, your dreams will come true.” He had an extraordinary work ethic which he demonstrated by scoring 81 points in a game! Kobe’s fans had grown accustomed to seeing his high scores and magical plays, and we’ll never forget the thrills his playing gave us.
Know what they will say
As Rev. Al Sharpton said, “You don’t know when your end will be, but make sure you live your life so you know what others will say about you when your time comes.”
Kobe did that. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Kobe was asked, “Do you think your daughter will want to play professionally?” Without pause, Kobe said, “She does for sure.” I can understand why when Kobe was asked when was he going to have a boy to carry on his legacy, Gianna stepped up and patted her chest to say girls can carry on legacies. She was well on her way to doing that. When the crash occurred, her dad was on the way to her game!
I wasn’t surprised to hear the heartfelt love and respect Kobe commanded. Fans and competitors made clear the esteem in which they held him and the depth of the loss his absence would create. All made clear the pain and profound sadness that his loss had brought to them. His commitment to supporting the aspirations of young people stands in stark contrast to the antagonistic, belligerent conduct of our so-called national leader.
The possibility Kobe projected into the lives of those he mentored was the polar opposite in behavior to the thousands of lies, meanness of spirit, profane language and evil actions so easily expressed by the occupant of the White House.
Well-deserved tributes came immediately from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq lamented, “There are no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi and my brother. I’m sick right now.”
Then came tributes from Michael Jordan and President Barack Obama. Barack, a basketball enthusiast, said, “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.” My heart goes out to all the families that lost loved ones in the tragedy.
Kobe was a big advocate for women’s sports. May his support bring new life and equality to women’s sports in memory of both Kobe and Gianna.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc.
Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.