'I Am Straight Up In Tears Right Now.' Why Kobe Bryant's Death Hurts So Much
My first instinct is anger and denial; legends never die. But I am straight up in tears right now as I write this, so it must be real. Kobe Bean Bryant died in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, early Sunday morning in the fog covered hills of Calabasas. And Los Angeles will never be the same.
It's illogical, man. I don't know why I'm crying. But it also makes sense that the man who constantly wowed us with his feats, would end up leaving us in disbelief once more. And Gianna, that hurts that much more. She was his legacy more than any of the trophies and records.
As a former employee of the Lakers TV station, I've had the rare privilege of being in the same rooms as Kobe. I saw up close his charisma and death stare. I've been thrilled when he agreed to give us a few minutes of his time. I've been frustrated when he canceled last minute or was rude about it. But mostly, I've been in absolute awe of him and inspired by him. So much so that I legit thought he was immortal, the same way I think my father and mother are.
This personal essay highlights Kobe Bryant's legacy as seen by a fan. Bryant had a complicated life that included a sexual assault allegation, a civil case with his accuser that was settled out of court, and a public apology by Bryant. Here are some resources for sexual abuse survivors:
- RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline: 24/7 crisis hotline (Spanish available) 800-656-HOPE
- East Los Angeles Women’s Center 24/7 crisis hotline (Spanish available): 800-585-6231
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for 24/7 crisis counseling
- Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health’s 24/7 Helpline (Spanish available): 800-854-7771
I guess that's what it is. That's what's destroying my reality.
When Nipsey Hussle died, it broke me but it was also like, "yeah that makes sense." It was like me dying, you know? It's a bit hard to explain that feeling unless you grew up in places like we did. None of us grows up feeling immortal.
But Kobe was hope, man. When he shot those four-air balls, as a teenage wunderkind, me and my brother were still like, "give the ball to Kobe." Even as he failed, we still believed he would bring us a dynasty. And he did. Boy did we need it.
Kobe was a complicated person. He was a ruthless competitor and could be a selfish teammate. And the rape allegations will forever mar his career. But for many of us, he represented the possibility that we - even in our flaws - could be excellent.
In 2000, after the Lakers won their first title in the Kobe Bryant era, I went outside and laid out in the back of my dad's pick up and stared up at the sky. I couldn't believe it. The streets of Southeast Los Angeles were bursting with the sounds of celebrations: car horns, fireworks, gunshots and, I swear, the sound of my enormous smile. High school sucked and we didn't have almost anything, but we had the title and we had Kobe.
He did that over and over again. Kobe Bryant gave us something special even when we had nothing else to cheer for in our lives. And through his legendary determination and hard work, gave us a road map to getting our own personal victories. A road map, no doubt his own daughter Gianna Maria Onore was following in her own right.
In a career spanning two decades all in Los Angeles purple and gold, Kobe Bryant went on to bring his fans five NBA titles, a victory over the hated Celtics in a Game 7, 18 all-star selections, an MVP award, 33,643 points, 20 seasons of hope, even an Oscar trophy and ... there has to be more, right? He can't be dead.
Nah, legends never die.