My heart ached upon hearing reports of Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash on Sunday. His 13 year old daughter, Gianna, left this earth with him, along with seven others. Ironically, I first heard of the crash from one of my daughters.
I will not pretend to have been Bryant’s biggest fan. He was a cocky, annoying kid when he was drafted to the NBA straight out of high school. As a Detroit native, in fact, I spent most of my basketball watching time hating him and the Lakers for what they did many seasons to my Pistons. And now that I live in California, I’m all about the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.
But few people do their jobs as well as Kobe did his. I always say if you and I could figure out the secret of how people like Bryant do what they do, and apply that key to our lives and occupations, we’d change the world. Or at the very least, we’d change our own world.
Bryant was only 41, almost 15 years my junior. When I think of the things I’ve accomplished since I was 41, my heart aches for what Kobe will never do.
As a father of two adult girls, I can’t imagine dying in a helicopter with one of them. I’m sure Bryant was too scared for Gianna to pray for himself. In those seconds, I’m sure Bryan would have traded places with the devil himself if his little one could have been spared.
And there’s Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, and his surviving children. Two of them, aged three and one, will have no memories of their father.
But in additional to mourning Bryant’s passing, I have to address some of the vitriol that was posted on social media in the minutes and hours as the story broke Sunday afternoon.
One Facebook user, who was one of the first I saw to post anything, wrote “I didn’t like Kobe, but…” before posting a link to a story about the crash. If you didn’t like him, sir, and you’ve nothing more to say about his death, why post anything? For likes? For attention?
Another Facebook user, in a post that’s now been deleted, chose to remind his FB “friends” of the 2003 accusation of sexual assault that Bryant faced. The resulting criminal case was ultimately thrown out after the accuser refused to testify, and the subsequent civil case was ultimately settled behind closed doors. Bryant admitted only to cheating on Vanessa, and insisted the interaction was consensual.
That post floored me. In the immediate wake of Bryant’s and his daughter’s death, someone felt the need to remind his “friends” of a charge levied against Kobe almost 20 years ago. And sadly, his was one of several posts I saw.
I’ll have to be honest: I was almost as saddened by those social media posts as I was by the news of Bryant’s untimely death. Have we as a society devolved to the point of having no compassion for someone who lost his life so suddenly and so tragically?
Needless to say, neither of these FB “friends” are friends of mine anymore. Maybe I need to choose my friends more carefully.
And maybe we need to hold each other in our arms and hearts more carefully. Life is so brief and so fleeting.
I’m writing this as I watch the live Grammy broadcast, from the Staples Center in LA. In moments of crisis and pain, I turn to two places: my MacBook keyboard and music. I’ll be spending the evening in the embrace of both. During tonight’s Grammy broadcast, Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men did the damn thing, lifting us all up. And Debbie Allen spoke for all of us from the red carpet, as she tearfully talked about Bryant.
I can only extend my thoughts and prayers to the Bryant family. And while I’m at at, I’ll extend my thoughts and prayers to whoever could do anything other than that for Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, the entire Bryant family, and the families of all of the others lost in that tragic accident.