I do not shed a tear for athletes.
We’re talking a few dozen tears, too. If not a lot more.
When I saw a friend post something on Facebook about Kobe Bryant, that he just couldn’t “believe it” … I wondered what that meant. Had the guy gone astray from his marriage vows again? Was he considering a comeback? Did he delve into another aspect of the entertainment field and conquer it, too.?
I, honestly, didn’t know what the deal was.
Then I did … and I pulled over in the midst of my driving.
Which is something else I never, ever do.
When the reality sunk in, and it sunk in fast, surprisingly, that Kobe, and his oldest child, Gianna, had died in a helicopter crash along with three others, I broke down. Completely.
Now, being an emotional-dirven sort, that may seem par for the course with someone such as myself. Only with me it isn’t. I get emotional. I get sad. I get mad. But I don’t break down. Ever.
Kids being born.
A complete breakdown never happened.
Hey, I realize I’m in store for more. I’m well aware of what, or who, my true “kill shot” will be … If I don’t go first. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I know the whole deal.
But this was tough. This was gut-wrenching. This was heart-breaking.
The reason why, for me, is because Kobe, for as great as he was a basketball player, was beyond sports – far beyond – and that mattered to me.
Yo, the dude was only 41 … and, albeit almost shockingly, gracefully moving along in his post-NBA life, appearing primed to be productive in the sports world and beyond.
His greatness transcended the boundaries of stat sheets and wins and losses.
To me he was an uber-focused force of nature, his sole objective never taking a back seat to anything, or anyone … and, frankly, I know I could have followed that train of thinking much better throughout my life – as a friend, a son, a brother, a father, a writer and an editor.
If you ask me, he’s the best I’ve ever seen play. I won’t argue Jordan supporters or LeBron guys. Any “debates” from them are legit. All I can say is, if I have first pick in the all-time NBA Draft, I’m taking Kobe and I’m not even flinching.
I won’t deny that, as I sit in my car, staring at nothing in front of me for close to an hour after reality hit in late afternoon, it did hit me how silly it can be seen for me, an individual old enough to be Kobe’s incredibly pale uncle and father of three himself, to be broken up about, well, for me, “a kid.”
But I’ve been privy to lessons from each of my own to know that being older doesn’t necessarily give me the only set of keys into wisdom.
I think that’s what strikes me most about Kobe, or what did strike me most. His growth as a person. Because of his passion for his vocation, he didn’t seem to get as lost in the trappings of youth and fame that others did, and, yet, when he did, that only made him more human. Not in a sense of being more likable, but, rather, more relatable.
Much more so than, well, Michael or King James.
Frankly, I liked other athletes far more so than I liked Kobe. Their style, their personality, whatever it was, connected for me in a more positive fashion than anything I noticed with Kobe.
But respect … the kind when you step back and go, you know what, he’s the man. Always.
Get out of his way or feel his wrath … and admire it.
For me, that was Kobe. Only Kobe.