Today, 9 people lost their lives in a helicopter crash, Kobe Bryant among them.
I finished up recording a podcast and upon grabbing my phone, I had numerous messages asking if I’d heard about Kobe Bryant. Checking my twitter feed and confirming his passing put me in a state of utter disbelief. Taking the news in stole the air from my lungs, and the joy from my heart.
I’ve experienced heartbreak and loss in my life countless times, but this is just something different entirely. Kobe was a person, just like anyone else. But, he was a seismic character, a titan of a human being; so much bigger and seemingly inhuman than anyone else.
I feel this loss so strongly because it is so reminiscent of the loss of my grandfather. Ever since I was a child, I looked up to these two men in awe. My grandfather seemed to accomplish more in one day than anyone had a right to. He handled every person he met the same; with a smile and a warm embrace. No one was too big or too small for him. Everyone was made to feel special. He was the most successful, loving, compassionate, and soulful man I have ever known and ever will know. His accomplishments and more importantly, the way he carried himself and went about his life, built him into this entity; a titanic figure that rivaled Atlas and Prometheus in stature. Like every move he made I watched with my eyes glued, because I was taking notes of everything I aspired to be someday.
That’s how I felt growing up watching Kobe’s games and highlights. What he did was just a game that he made look so easy and simplistic, but he did it with such grace and ferocity that was encapsulating to me. Every basket was special. Every game was a show. Even before I grew to love basketball, I knew Kobe Bryant for who he was and what he embodied. Success, grit, tenacity, dedication, and a commitment to himself to be great. Kobe was the athlete I aspired to most be like. When I was boxing at a high level, I would listen to Kobe speak and watch film of him to find subtle ways to mimic his effort. I had posters of him all over my room as daily reminders of who I aspired to be like and what it would take to get there.
It’s just crazy to me. It’s not even about the sport or accolades and fame. It’s that Kobe Bryant, this great man, larger than life itself ,is gone. When I speak about Kobe I’ll say “he was” rather than “he is,” which is mind blowing to me. He was 41 with a young family and so much to live for and look forward to. My grandfather was wrenched away in a similar manner, gone in a flash. He died right in front of me, I was holding his hand, and I’ll never forget that moment. I never even imagined him being gone, I didn’t think such an incredible force of life could be extinguished. It was the most soul crushing, gut wrenching moment of my life. And I remembered that today and felt that again.
Life is so short, and it can be frightening sometimes. So do something you enjoy. Work towards happiness with the people you love. And be a person you respect and admire, because at the end of the day, it’s the memories we forge in our lives that matter. I spent so much of my life in an unhappy place, striving to be anyone other than myself, and luckily I’ve gotten to where I am now; happy and with the most amazing girl in the world who loves me for my honest self. It’s not worth it to be anyone other than yourself.
I didn’t know Kobe. I never met him, never spoke to him, or was even in the same room or arena. I’m just a 22 year old college student from suburban Ohio, but that’s the point. Kobe goes beyond basketball. Millions of people like me have similar experiences and memories of a man they never knew. His impact cannot be overstated. He was a titan in life, and he will never be forgotten.