A non-fan’s thoughts on Kobe Bryant

(Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images) /

With Sunday’s tragic news about the deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and several others in a helicopter accident, nobody is immune from feeling awful, regardless of how you viewed him.

The NBA, and basketball in general, are far down the list of favorite sports for me. As such, I never thought too much about or fixated on Kobe Bryant.

If I’m being totally honest, I even leaned toward not liking him, inasmuch as I tend to get annoyed by great players who do nothing but win for other teams in other cities. A native son of Philadelphia, Kobe was one of the main reasons that the 76ers were denied the 2001 NBA title. As I said, basketball isn’t my forte, but I still want local teams to win whenever possible. And so I definitely held it against him to some degree.

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From a Philadelphia fan perspective, it was painful to see the local kid have nearly unparalleled success, with the L.A. Lakers no less, while we shook our heads and wished we could have someone like that on our team.

With all of this said, even though I didn’t “like” Kobe, I completely respected him and what he did for sports in general. As a generational player whose influence is clearly visible all throughout the league where he played, Kobe’s legacy was always going to outlive him. We all just assumed that we’d have a lot more time to celebrate said legacy.

Much like we recently saw with Roy Halladay, we won’t even be able to salute the man himself at his Hall of Fame induction. Kobe first became eligible for this year’s class, and he obviously was always going to get in. Now it seems like there should be a separate ceremony, as both a nod to his enduring importance to the game and in fairness to the other inductees who would otherwise be overshadowed.

Kobe Bryant remains in the pantheon of the greatest athletes of the 21st century, and he isn’t likely to move anytime soon. A large chunk of current NBA players directly attribute their love of the game to him, which is much like the influence of Michael Jordan a generation earlier.

I don’t know of anyone who’s impacted the sports world that much in the last couple decades.

Gone at 41 years old, Kobe Bryant had decades more to bask in his accomplishments and collect accolades at every turn. He had earned it.

But my heart breaks mostly because, as a husband and father myself, he won’t be able to see the true legacy of his family fully come to fruition. And the fact that his daughter Gianna also perished makes the situation even more unbearable from a human perspective.

This would be unfailingly tragic even if an all-time great athlete wasn’t involved. But Kobe’s status as a legend is beside the point. Instead, the thought of a father unable to save his child for whom he would do anything is what will stay with me. It’s enough to upset even the supposedly “toughest” among us. And I don’t know full details of the others onboard as I write this, but they also leave behind loved ones for whom the wounds will never heal. I sincerely felt sick to my stomach when I heard all this.

On Sunday, many lost their idol and favorite player. And the NBA lost one of the great ambassadors of their league and the game of basketball. Not to mention that it was truly bizarre how Kobe was in the news less than 24 hours before his death as LeBron James passed him for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in the Lakers’ loss to the 76ers.

LeBron even had a special message on his shoes for Kobe that was shown during the broadcast. It was just one small indicator of how Kobe Bryant had shaped basketball, the NBA, and the landscape of professional sports.

Even for a person like myself, who didn’t really have strong feelings about Kobe Bryant during his career whatsoever, this is one of the most upsetting stories we have seen in quite some time. There is no overstating how big of a loss this is.

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He was a legend, but he was also a husband and father with half a life still ahead of him. Things like this shouldn’t happen, but they do, unfortunately. Let’s at least let it serve as a reminder to show our appreciation to those we care about. And let’s appreciate greatness across the board while those people are still here.