I was in the kitchen with my wife early Sunday afternoon when she looked up from her phone and said, “TMZ is saying Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.” I heard her clearly, but the news still hit me hard. “Wait! What? Kobe?! No!”
My combination of shock and disbelief was probably not much different than that of many people across America and the world. Some of us held out a glimmer of hope because TMZ reported the crash first, but we knew better.
Say what you want about them, but TMZ is rarely wrong when it comes to news about celebrity deaths. They were right about Michael Jackson. They were right about Prince. Sadly, they were right about Kobe Bryant.
I went into my bedroom and flipped feverishly through the sports channels looking for news on Kobe. Sunday afternoon, however, is not the best time to find news of any kind. There was golf, basketball and the NFL Pro Bowl. Each broadcast seemed to hold out as long as it could before announcing the news we already knew to be true.
The reports soon settled on a confirmed set of facts. Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, had perished in the crash along with seven others including the pilot. My entire body went numb and I started to shake. The blow from the news was swift and severe.
Kobe was a sports legend and worldwide icon, but this loss was more devastating than some of the others we’ve experienced over the years. Our heroes sometimes die young and often under tragic circumstances, but Gianna, my God, Gianna.
Gianna Bryant and the other kids on that helicopter hadn’t begun their lives yet. The thought of the kids passing away so suddenly melted me inside. My mind turned away from Kobe the basketball legend, but to Kobe the father. Did he know what was happening? Did he try with all his might to shield his baby? Did he even have a chance to?
Just then, my wife walked into our room and said, “That’s enough. No more news. No more sports today.” I was working on some stuff, but she knows me. I wasn’t yelling or crying, but she’s seen pain on my face before. She knows when I’ve had enough.
I scrolled through my social media feed and the expressions of loss were varied and profound. Kobe Bryant was a hero to many around the world and they made it known. There were also those who lashed out. They were mad at media outlets, mad at each other for being mad at media outlets, just mad at the world.
Then the people I call the grief police showed up. You know, the people who tell us how we don’t know celebrities personally and therefore shouldn’t care about what happens to them. Then they tell us about events and people we should care about instead.
I am no expert on loss, but I have had my share. I’ve learned that no one has a monopoly on suffering and none of us have the right to tell anyone else how they should grieve. People loved Kobe Bryant and will genuinely miss him. He inspired people to be a better version of themselves. Any person who does this is worthy of respect.
Going forward, my prayers are with Kobe’s wife, Vanessa and their three remaining daughters, who must cope with unimaginable loss. I hope their comfort lies in knowing Kobe and Gianna belonged to them above us all.
My prayers are with Joe and Pam Bryant, who must now say goodbye to their only son. I hope they find solace in the knowledge of their son being a man millions of others hoped to emulate.
My prayers are with his fans, who are now aggrieved, but are forever blessed by the memory of one of the best to ever lace up a pair of Nikes.
In our own way and likely in every way, we will miss you, Kobe.
Rest In Peace.