There is some news that just hits you different. You hear it — and no matter your connection to that news — you just can’t stomach it. You think, that doesn’t sound right. There’s no way that’s true. How? Why? It’s the type of news that makes you lose your appetite, it’s the type of news that is on your mind constantly throughout the day, and the next day you’ll get up and wonder why you’re only feeling 98 per cent happy. Then you remember, something tragic has happened and you still can’t wrap your head around it. It’s on your mind just enough to cause you to step back and think about how short life is, and how quickly it can change. The shock, the aftershock — it won’t subside for a while.
No matter your connection to sports, or basketball, the Lakers or Kobe Bryant himself, the tragedy this past Sunday shook everyone. A helicopter crash claimed the life of Bryant, his 13 year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. While the legacy of Bryant, the impact he had on the basketball and sports world, will be what is most talked about over the next few weeks (and forever), it’s so much more than that. It’s more than losing one of the greats, it’s more than losing someone who never should have been gone that soon. It’s a dad and his daughter on the way to a basketball game — and a teammate and their parents and others, who are now gone. It’s the idea of a legend whose love for the game transcended to his daughter, who got up on a Sunday morning with excitement to play a game she learned to love from her own father. The idea of her teammate being with her on that helicopter and realizing at some point that they may never touch a basketball again — that they may never give each other a fist-bump after draining a three-pointer. The idea of the rest of their teammates preparing to play a game and instead being faced with what may be the biggest tragedy of their lives to date. The idea of families being left without a parent or a sibling. The idea of a mother who will have lost two of her favourite people in the world. The idea of sisters so young they will never get to know the dad or sister that the rest of the world got to see.
I think part of why Kobe Bryant’s passing was so heartfelt was because his legacy was felt by many — regardless of what you did in your life. His character on the court was of someone who never gave up, who believed they would be great and worked towards it every single day. He showed his gratitude for being able to play a game he loved for a profession by becoming the best he could be at that game.
In 2016, Bryant said, “If you really want to create something that last generations, you have to help inspire the next generation. And they create something great, and then that generation will inspire the one behind them. And that’s when you create something forever. And that’s what’s most beautiful.”
What Bryant did as a basketball player and someone who was always in the spotlight was great — but he also knew what mattered. Inspiring the next generation.
Anything someone puts their time and passion into usually starts with a bit of inspiration. We all have that story of someone who inspires us in our lives, whether in the moment or something that has stuck with us for years.
The lesson I am taking from this tragedy? We need each other more than anything. We need to find what it is that we love, and do whatever we can do to be the best at it. Push ourselves to be better in school, push ourselves to be better at work. Push ourselves to be better friends, to be better members of society — to stand up for what’s right, to start looking at our opportunities with optimism, instead of taking a pessimistic view on life or the world. We need to love each other more, and tell the people we love that we do. We need to let go of the little things, we need to forgive and forget — and mean it when we do. We need to stop judging other people for not having the same opinions as us or the same views. We can approach our lives with a bit more zest, a bit more optimism, passion, perseverance — and ultimately, we can approach our lives with more kindness and gratitude for the things we have. We’re not entitled to any of it, but we should damn well appreciate the people and things that make us love our lives. What would we do without those people? We never want to know. But there are people in the world who have to find out and somehow move forward. Appreciate what you have, and make sure every day those people know that they matter.