It’s been a heavy, sad day. As most know by now basketball great Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash. On the surface it’s the all to familiar tragedy of someone well known leaving this world too soon.
In reading the reports I felt a sense of great similarity with Mr. Bryant. The news struck me as how young he was, particularly looking at how much life must have been ahead of him. Then came the realization that He and I are the same age (41 at the time of this writing). At 41 I often feel like an old man, but for some reason over the last day I’m getting the sense that 41, or even 49 is far from the end.
Kobe’s career was in full stride when I moved to California for graduate school in 2001. The early 2000’s were a fun time for NBA basketball in California. The two premier teams were the Sacramento Kings and the LA Lakers.
Being a new “NorCal” resident and a traditional Minnesota sports fan, preferring the underdog to the riches of the Yankees, Patriots, Lakers, etc., I felt at home rooting for the Kings. Kobe and the Phil Jackson Lakers were the adversary, just as Derek Jeter and the Yankees were to my MN Twins. The rivalry was heated and fun, especially being on a big college campus with a good mix of students from NorCal and SoCal. The nights they played, the nearby sports bars were packed and routy and games usually came down to the last few seconds and who seemed to have the “hot hand”. Often it was Kobe Bryant.
This rivalry took itself to the Western Conference playoffs several times and one time to the finals in 2002. The 2003 and 2004 seasons also saw my Minnesota Timberwolves get into the mix against the Lakers. These series were much more exciting than the finals due to the Eastern conference playing a more static “traditional” style of basketball compared to the fast paced transition offenses the Western Conference teams were using.
The one constant in these series was Kobe Bryant (okay, maybe Phil Jackson too). We was the definition of a clutch player. He seemed to hit the shots when they were needed, much to the dismay of my gritted teeth. Still it was a fun ride. What I took from that was the observation that continual hard work and maybe a little bit of luck pay significant dividends, but there’s also no time to rest on yesterday’s victory.
Lastly, and perhaps the saddest part of the story is that his 13 year old daughter was killed in the crash as well other of her friends and their families.
I have a 14 and a nearly 12 year old. The rare occasion I imagine losing them is beyond painful. I guess I have a knack for putting my mind and emotions in different situations of mine and others (with one shitty blind spot). That hurts. Now imagine the loss of the surviving families. It’s akin to the occasional auto accident the wipes out a whole family or team. It makes my heart ache for all involved.
The reality is that life is truly unpredictable. While we like to feel as though we are in control, no one is. The only solace can then be in that there’s something bigger out there, some reason to keep living in the wake of the unthinkable.
Thus, when stuff like this happens to someone in a similar age of life, it really makes one step back and think about how amazing and how much of a dice roll life is.
Ghandi said, “Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever”. The former sentence feels very true.
Embrace life. Love and in the moment as you can. Breathe deep and know that regardless of what happens time and faith will heal. If it is your time to go, hope that it will be peaceful and your last moments full of love.
To the Bryants and the community, we are sorry for your loss.