It’s time to Break It Down!
Last Sunday morning, around 9:45 PDT, a helicopter crashed in Calabasas in Northern Los Angeles County, California. As we now know, that crash ended the lives of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, A.K.A. GiGi, six other passengers, and the pilot, nine souls in total. Kobe Bryant gained immeasurable notoriety as a star among stars in the NBA constellation. There have been numerous memorials, and undoubtedly, there will be countless more.
But before going any further, let’s make it perfectly clear, the accident was a tragedy not just because Kobe Bryant was killed, though that was tragic. Rather it was a tragedy of immense proportion because in a moment, 9 people lost their lives, including one of Kobe’s own daughters, whom Kobe was scheduled to coach in a basketball game at noon Sunday at Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy, two of her teammates, both parents of one of them, and the mother of the other, an Assistant Coach, and the pilot, in addition to Kobe. Every single one of those individuals was a vital functioning and contributing member of a family and friends circle. That multiple members were taken from three different families certainly deepens the blow. Those killed include:
- Kobe Bryant, 41
- Gianna (GiGi) Bryant, 13
- John Altobelli, 56
- Keri Altobelli
- Alyssa Altobelli, Daughter, Team Member
- Sarah Chester, Mom
- Payton Chester, Daughter, Team Member
- Christina Mauser, Assistant Girls Basketball Coach, Harbor Day School, and at Mamba Sports Academy
- Ara Zobayan, Pilot
For many basketball fans, Kobe Bryant often appeared larger than life. This was especially true for the majority of folks who claim occupancy in Laker Nation. More than a few consider him the greatest ever. Drafted out of Lower Merion High School, located in Lower Merion, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, he certainly distinguished himself with a highlight reel career that included 20 years with my beloved Lakers. Kobe amassed a resume highlighted by 18 All-Star Team selections, 15 times a member of the All NBA Team, 12 Times All NBA Defensive Team, 5 NBA Championships, 2 Time NBA Scoring Leader, 2008 NBA MVP, 4th on the all-time NBA regular season scoring list (Just passed by LeBron James this past Saturday night), 4th in all-time NBA post season scoring, first guard in NBA history to play 20 years, scored 81 points in a single game, and amassed 60 points in his final game as an NBA player. Without question, he’s a Laker Legend, and an NBA luminary of the first order of magnitude.
In laboring through constructing this retrospective, I’m the first to admit, I was not always all-in on Kobe. I am that rare Laker fan who was not the most avid Kobe fan. Don’t get me wrong; I always fully appreciated his talent and totally respected his game. He was all that, and a bag of chips. But in 1996, when the Charlotte Hornets used the 13th pick of the First Round to Draft him, I therefore and forever adhered to the notion he should have been a Hornet; my home team. Never mind that the Lakers are my all-time favorite NBA Team. Been a fan since the days of Baylor, West, Chamberlain, and Company. But as a Charlotte resident, and original Hornets’ Season Tickets owner, I’m also vested in their success. Moreover, I fully believe Kobe would have significantly altered and elevated their trajectory.
After his retirement, I softened my position. I never abandoned my opinion he should have played his career in a Hornets uniform, but I did understand (as I always did), that he made a shrewdly strategic business decision, and I absolutely respect that. I also recognize that he was instrumental in helping the Lakers win a handful of NBA Titles, and I don’t know if he’d have been able to do the same in Charlotte. On balance, he made the right call for Kobe. Each of us must do that for ourselves.
That brings me back to an undeniable reality. Our time on this earthly journey is brief, and unpredictable. According to Job 14, King James Version:
“Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. And doth thou open thine eyes upon such a one, and bringest me into judgment with thee.”
Mamba obviously had a great career in hoops. He had also created a successful Brand and had become a formidable business magnate. Of late, he was immersing himself into being a model husband and father of four daughters. By most accounts he was committed to helping GiGi develop her basketball talent and eventually achieve her stated dream of playing in the WNBA. More complete biographies will address the challenges Bryant overcame in his quest for unparalleled greatness. I am content to report that he lived his life by the standards he set, and the bar was high. He was not afraid to pursue his passion, or of the success that came from such pursuits. Many will say, he left us too soon. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Job’s sentiment, that call is not ours to make. It’s above our pay grade.
So, as I conclude, instead of lamenting the irreversible, or framing an even longer good-bye, I say, go with God. “Au Revoir Mamba: A Requiem for Kobe!”
I’m done; holla back!
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