Mamba and Mambacita: A Look at Lives Lost

You‘re back in school. And you’ve just messed up on an essay, or a homework assignment, or literally anything on a piece of paper. What do you do? You ball it up, shoot it at the trash can, act like you’ve just completed the sickest fade away, and shout, “Kobe!”. A man seemingly larger than life, Kobe Bryant had a cultural impact that spanned far beyond the basketball world, beyond the sports world even. And that’s a part of why yesterday‘s news is so tragic, so unsettling and painful and confusing.

I was sitting in my car, having just gotten out of a store, when I received a four word text: “holy shit Kobe’s dead”. Immediately, I pulled down my notifications and started going through my ESPN notifications, wondering how I could’ve missed such a thing. When the only mention of the legend‘s name was a link to a story on LeBron‘s surpassing in the record books, I figured I’d received a misguided text. So I went to Google. That’s where I saw the TMZ article.

The next two hours felt like I was watching chaos in real time, because in truth we were. Across the media world, reporters dealt in misinformation, hurrying to be the first to break a new piece of information. We had reports that all of Kobe‘s daughters had died with him. Then, his daughters weren’t there, but Rick Fox was. The mess that was reporting yesterday gave reason to pause when reports started coming in that Gianna Maria, the 13 year old daughter of Vanessa and Kobe Bryant, was in the crash as well. TMZ reported that a rep for Kobe confirmed GiGi and Kobe were traveling to the Mamba Academy. By the six o’clock news cycle, we knew that the flight likely had nine passengers rather than five. We knew that along with Kobe and Gianna, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and daughter Alyssa were also in the crash.

The depth of pain and confusion surrounding yesterday‘s events is so immense, and there‘s so many terrible components. The loss of life in a sudden and violent manner is always hard to deal with for multiple reasons. At the forefront, you have this jolting new reality that someone who used to occupy a space alongside us no longer exists in that same capacity. At its core, sudden deaths remind us of the true fragility of life. The loss of such a vibrant, unstoppable man reminds us that none of us are immune to tragedy and death. And the loss of a young child reminds us that life can be cruel and unforgiving, often robbing the least deserving of us all.

At just 41, Kobe Bryant had already completed a very successful career, but as Former President Barack Obama stated, he was, “just getting started in what would have been a meaningful second act.” His first consisted of five NBA titles, two finals MVP titles, and one NBA MVP title. He was an 18-time All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist. His second act appeared to be one centered on family and love. Kobe had recently begun coaching his daughter‘s youth team, and was working to mold future generations of the sport through his Mamba Academy and other outlets. At 13, his daughter Gianna Bryant showed great promise as a young talent of the sport. Kobe sited Gianna as the reason he began watching NBA games again, saying that after she asked him to watch them with her, they would constantly watch games and go over film. According to her father, GiGi had aspirations to play at UConn and then continue on to the WNBA, excited to carry on her father‘s legacy. Two bright futures senselessly cut short.

There aren’t enough words to explain the magnitude of this loss. As both a sports fan and an athlete, I‘ve always admired Kobe and Mamba Mentality. To be good or even talented is not the same as being truly great. To be great, you also need work ethic, discipline, and grit. You have to be willing to sacrifice what others will not, you have to have intense internal drive. You have to be willing to engage in a relentless pursuit of what you want. Kobe was truly great, and he modeled that greatness for not just the basketball community, but the world. The loss of Kobe Bryant is one that has rightfully rocked the world. The death of his young daughter also cuts deep. A rising star. A lovable young girl. A sister. A daughter. A child that had endless possibilities in front of her.

I can‘t claim to have known how Kobe and Gianna would’ve wanted us to proceed. I can’t give you knowledgeable words of comfort as someone who knew them. It doesn’t feel right to offer up words of advice on grief either, because everyone‘s experience with grief is different. What I can do is leave you with what feels most appropriate: words of advice from Mamba himself.

“Have a good time. Enjoy life. Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving, you have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile and just keep rolling.”

RIP Kobe Bryant (1978-2020) and Gianna Bryant (2006-2020), as well as the seven others killed in Sunday‘s crash.

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