The entire world was shaken on Sunday with the news that NBA and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had perished in a helicopter crash in Southern California. You did not need to be a basketball fan, or even a sports fan, to comprehend the enormity of this news. In the last couple of days I’ve been within earshot of multiple conversations that are centered on Kobe—in coffee shops, at the airport, in line to grab lunch.
His death has shaken the country to its core. He was an NBA icon entering the second act of his career. That second act was off to a sterling start, with a 2018 Oscar for the short film Dear Basketball joining the five NBA Championship trophies in his case. It was a second act that tragically far too soon.
Kobe Bryant’s death hit me particularly hard. I grew up watching him surgically pick apart defenses and dagger them with game-winners. I lamented the loss of Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando but celebrated his pairing with Black Mamba in Los Angeles, a tandem that would bring three titles to Los Angeles. I celebrated the Orlando Magic’s run to the 2009 NBA Finals, only to realize that Kobe Bryant would be on the other side of the court.
That didn’t turn out well for the Magic. It didn’t turn out well for many teams.
Kobe carried the baton from Michael Jordan as one of the greatest players in NBA history. He was a polarizing figure off the court, but he was all business on it. Kobe Bryant introduced a new generation to basketball—boys and girls, alike.
One of Bryant’s biggest off-court accomplishments was his work to bring the game to young girls, and encouraging their growth in the sport. He was a vocal champion for the WNBA, actively promoting the league and encouraging young women to pursue their love of basketball. He was flying with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna to one of her travel games when the helicopter went down.
Gianna would tragically perish alongside her dad, as well as her teammates Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli. Alyssa’s parents, John and Keri, were also on board, as was Mambas assistant basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
None would survive the horrific accident.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day and lose sight of what’s truly important, and sometimes it takes inconceivable tragedy to provide some forced perspective. The little things that you think really matter really don’t in the grand scheme of things. Take some time to appreciate what’s in front of you.
Our hearts go out to the families of all who were on board, and we are thinking of them during this incredibly difficult time.