This is the most I have thought about my own mortality in a very long time. I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning thinking “this is the day I’m going to die.” Last Sunday on January 26th I myself and the rest of the sports world received one of the hardest pills any of us has ever had to swallow. Kobe Bryant, at the age of 41 is dead. He was traveling in a helicopter with his oldest daughter Gianna to her basketball game with another parent John Altobelli his daughter Alyssa and wife Keri when the copter unexpectedly crashed, leaving no survivors including the crew. Bill Plaschke senior columnist of the Los Angeles Times titled is piece “How can Kobe Bryant be dead? His legend wasn’t supposed to end this way”, this is possibly the purest and proverbial feeling shared across the sports world. No one could have seen this coming, this is truly one of the darkest days in the history of sports.
The black mamba is a species of extremely venomous snake whose venom is potentially lethal and though antivenin exists, it is not widely available in the black mambas native South East Africa making it a top killer. This was Kobe Bryant’s spirit animal due shared characteristics of having a protective killer mentality. Bryant embraced this attitude in all facets of life when it came to his preparation mentally and physically. His competitiveness in practice is that of legend and there are too many stories to count in his two decades as a Laker. That drive translated into winning five championships for one of the most storied franchises in sports. When David Stern took over as commissioner of the NBA his goal was to turn it into a global game which began with the superstardom of Michael Jordan but the NBA’s pinnacle global star became Bryant taking the game farther across the world than anyone could even have imagined.
In my lifetime I saw him as kid take the world by storm and never let go by becoming one of the most dominant scorers and defenders in the history of the NBA. He had reached a status that rivaled demigods like Hercules, his legend has few rivals and in the city of Los Angeles he might as well have been God himself. Growing up in Southern California Kobe truly was larger than life. This is probably why everyone in the sports world has this deep feeling in their throat and a sickness in their belly as if they were kicked directly in their stomach while in the fetal position. It’s almost as if we all just watched superman fall out of the sky. As the human race advances and technology becomes more intertwined into our lives our arrogance often leads us to believe that we are masters of this planet and this universe, which is complete horse shit. It also reminds us that nothing in this world is truly ours, including our own lives and our heroes.
Death is final frontier for human knowledge and leaves a question that will never be answered in this realm. What happens when we die? This is most prevalent when one experiences the death of someone close to you. How can I go on, will they ever comeback? Sadly, we all know the answer to this question is a resounding “no.” Death scares me because of it’s totality, once it’s done, it’s done. We now live in a world without Kobe Bryant. It seems like we all received a hard reality check that reminded us that though we live amongst people that we view as super human, we all are mere mortals, and all carry and expiration date. Our world seems darker now that we have lost one of our heroes but the Mamba Mentality is all about pulling strength from within yourself. It’s about persevering against all odds and continuing to fight when your body and your mind both want to quit.
My friends as you read this the truth is, life is about change. Growing up in a Lakers household purple and gold are part of my DNA, some of my fondest memories will always be watching basketball with my dad and my brother whenever we could catch a game together. Though this article mainly touches on basketball but I think Kobe’s legacy is bigger than basketball. It is a legacy of owning up when you make a mistake, being a man when its your time, and staring adversity down at whatever cost. Kobe was a warrior and this was exemplified by his mental toughness and ability to adapt in whatever it was that he did. I imagine he of course was proud of his accomplishments on the court but from what I have seen the last couple days his proudest moments were those as a father. I’m going to end this how I ended my father’s eulogy, “tell your family you love them, hug and kiss them when you can, enjoy the time you have, and most importantly forgive.”
My deepest heartfelt condolences go out to Vanessa Bryant, their three daughters, the Altobelli family, as well as all of their family and friends.