It was Sunday morning on January 26. I was walking on my treadmill and reconciling some business expenses when a text came over my phone . . . “RIP Kobe Bryant.” The source was from TMZ so I didn’t believe it at first, but as the day progressed, the truth began to sink in. Superman was dead.
I honestly didn’t understand the emotional outpouring when Michael Jackson died of an overdose. I kept wondering how people who had never met the man could be so torn up about his departure. Now I get it. I never met Kobe Bean Bryant, but his passing rocked my world. It’s been eight days since his death that I write this. I’ve seen so many remembrances, ceremonies and articles about Kobe over the last week, I feel like I’m now in the inner circle. Seeing so many variant stakeholders brought to tears and making comments like, “I’m not sure I will ever get over this. I feel like I lost a son,” casts a certain aura over Kobe. I have to believe this must have been similar to JFK, Marilyn and Elvis (provided he isn’t still writing music somewhere with Tupac) when they left us. There was a superhuman quality to each that we just never correlated to their mortality. Kobe was in this domain.
For those of us who grew up playing basketball, there is, of course, a natural connection. Kobe was the ultimate competitor who possessed (vocally at times) his desire to be the absolute best. His biggest regret was that the ultimate GOAT (Michael Jordan) wasn’t in his prime at the same time. There was a killer instinct to Kobe that we all appreciated, and frankly, desired to imitate. But how does the outpouring of sympathy from non-ballplayers factor in here? How do people from around the world who are not even sports fans care so much about a man they’ve never met? Is it the idea of Kobe with which we all connect?
He definitely was not without his hiccups in life. In 2003, he made a very public mistake, and it took years for him to recover from it. He publicly apologized and this usually does amount to forgiveness from the public. If only other celebrities would get this message: Be honest, show contrition and then take action to demonstrate your role in society. Kobe modeled the correct way to apologize with honesty and integrity. Was it that we could see such a strong figure fall, demonstrate vulnerability and come back even stronger that created that bond with Kobe?
He was a consummate winner, but later became an ever-present dad, insisting on being there for his four daughters. Perhaps this is why I am so devastated by his loss . . . recency bias now that I’m a dad? Kobe has created a new #GirlDad. It has been the most popular trending hashtag on the internet over the last week. My final postulation is this: Kobe was seen as a rock, chiseled and strong with an immoveable foundation. How could Kobe die? How did he not jump out of the helicopter at the last second with his daughter Gigi in hand? How could he fall? ’Cause if he can fall, we all can and will. It’s a reminder of our mortality, but most importantly, it’s a reminder that we have no idea how many Sundays we have left.
Live every day as if it’s your last. That’s easy to say and hard to execute. I have begun this journey as of today. Kobe, you paid a significant price for us to re-realize our mortality. Thank you for the reminder, and rest in peace.