By now it should not be news to any one, sports fan or no, that retired basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash during the early hours of Sunday, Jan. 26 in the fog shrouded hills of Calabasas, Calif.
As the first point guard to ever be drafted straight from high school, Bryant went on to play for 20 years for the Los Angeles Lakers and, in the process, became the face of both the team and the city.
With his famous work-ethic and desire to keep the ball in his hands, Kobe led the Lakers to five national titles. Three in a row from 2000-2002 while paired with Shaquille O’Neal, and then two more with Paul Gasol as the big man in 2009 and 2010.
When he wasn’t winning titles, he was winning Olympic gold medals with Team USA, picking up a medal in 2008 and another in 2012.
Along the way, Bryant was named to the NBA All-Star team 18 times (the second most in NBA history), the All-Defense team 12 times. He was the league MVP in 2008 and the NBA Finals MVP in both his final runs to the Larry O’Brien trophy.
By all accounts he was well on his way to recreating that success in his retired life, jump-starting multiple successful businesses through his investment company; creating an all-encompassing new approach to physical fitness, and winning an Oscar for his animated rendition of “Dear Basketball” in 2018 via his production studio.
There is no denying that Kobe Bryant was a legendary basketball player and is a lock for the NBA Hall of Fame. There is no denying that as a vibrant, determined and dynamic 41-year-old he was well on his way to continuing to have an impact on the world. There is no denying his loss is a tragedy.
But only now, a day later, as the details of the tragedy unfold, as the scope and the depth of the incident become known, do we truly realize the horror of what happened in that clouded canyon Sunday morning.
Killed with Mr. Bryant was his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Killed with Mr. Bryant was a longtime baseball coach, John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa.
Killed with Mr. Bryant was another 13-year-old girl, Payton Chester, and her mom, Sarah.
Killed with Mr. Bryant was a wife and mother of three, Christina Mauser.
Killed with Mr. Bryant was pilot, Ara Zoboyan.
As a father, I can only imagine the gut-wrenching terror that had to have been there when each parent realized that in their last seconds, all they could do was grasp their children tightly, whisper “I love you,” and pray that it would be over quickly.
As a husband, I can’t begin to comprehend absorbing the news that my other half was not going to walk through the door and tell me about her day while kissing me hello. Not just today, but for every day from here forth.
As an author, my heart breaks just writing the words.
“Kobe Bryant, and others killed in helicopter crash,” said one of the first headlines to pop-up in the wake of the incident. The article, like news articles do when details are hard to come by, focused on the big name and the public image.
Kobe’s death is tragic. It is too soon, and it will resonate through the world of sports for months to come.
But his legacy was established, his name already writ large.
For the others, namely the children, their legacies were cut short, and that may be the most tragic thing of all.