“Kobe Bryant and Daughter Gianna Had So Much Left to Give”
In 2018, Jimmy Kimmel asked Kobe Bryant whether he felt more nervous with the shot clock winding down and the ball in his hands or sitting at the Oscars waiting to hear his name called. The five-time NBA champion said he was less comfortable in the tense moments before he received his first Oscar for the animated short film Dear Basketball, telling Kimmel, “It’s actually worse because I’m not in control.”
Those words hit especially hard today. Kobe controlled his basketball legacy, from the day he declared his intention to leap frog college and join the NBA to the night he poured in 60 points in his farewell aria against the Jazz in 2016. When his playing career ended, Kobe was able to control the amount of time he spent with his wife and his daughters. He took pride in starting a company and releasing a book, but his greatest source of happiness came from his family. He coached their teams, brought them to the sidelines of Lakers games and became a champion of the WNBA, believing that one day his 13-year-old Gianna would be a professional basketball player like her father.
Which is why, when the world gradually learned of a helicopter crash on Sunday in Calabasas that claimed the lives of Kobe and Gianna, as well as seven others, the collective response was immense shock and deep sorrow. No one woke up this morning expecting anything like this to happen. Now, we’re going to sleep feeling a little more mortal. Kobe was a transcendent athlete, a cultural icon and a role model to multiple generations, and he was powerless in his last seconds on this earth. The Black Mamba relished control, swishing shots from all corners of the court, building a brand as a businessman and trying to guide his children to greater heights than he ever reached. He couldn’t fully deliver on that final promise, and that’s why it hurts so much to know that Kobe’s life has abruptly ended at 41.
An engineer of inimitable success, Kobe was unflappable but not infallible. In 2003, he was accused of raping a woman at a hotel in Colorado. Kobe admitted to a sexual encounter but denied assault. Though the case was dropped in 2004, this is a part of his legacy just as is his epochal 81-point performance in 2006 against the Raptors. We can revere his greatness but also acknowledge that it was because of this power he wielded that he did not always say or do the right thing. More often than not, however, his words and actions inspired countless souls to pursue their craft relentlessly. His emptiness was felt Sunday from the NBA courts to the stage of the Grammy’s.
Kobe won’t be there for his Hall of Fame induction or the erecting of his inevitable statue at the Staples Center. He won’t be there to see his company continue to flourish, to try for a second Oscar, to watch the next Lebron James – if one exists – surpass his scoring total. Worst of all, he won’t be there to watch his four daughters grow. His oldest was 17, his youngest was born last June. Kobe gave so much in his time on this earth, but it is the potential for what more he and Gianna had left to give that makes this unspeakable tragedy so impossible to comprehend.
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