The sports world was brought to its knees yesterday, both literally and figuratively, to pay homage to the great Kobe Bryant.
In fact, the term “sports” could be removed from the sentence above. One-hundred years from now, if somebody is looking for a snapshot of the human race in 2020, it might have been taken inside Staples Center, where everyone gathered to memorialize a star and his daughter, a star on the rise. The picture would have featured the incredibly wealthy, the common man and those who might have spent their last dollar on a No. 24 Lakers jersey. It would have framed the famous, the anonymous and everyone in between. It would have shown one of every color and race, one of every kind – athletes, entertainers, white collars, blue colors, no collars, the political and the apolitical. And of course, the arena where Bryant once played basketball only represented the physical barrier of the crowd that had gathered. In 2020 there are no walls; we watched from everywhere: Offices, living rooms, tread mills; on televisions, phones and laptops.
While much was said of Bryant’s life during the two-hour celebration, perhaps the most telling words went unspoken: Somehow, for just a single moment in time, one man had managed to bring us all together.
The death of Kobe and Gigi managed to touch everyone, regardless of how much or how little they cared about the game of basketball. There’s not a person on the planet who isn’t touched by lives taken too soon, a husband and daughter taken from a wife and mother, a friend who still had a lot to do and give. Make no mistake, this kind of tragedy happens every day – but this was Kobe – and it unfolded in front of our very eyes. Whether we knew him or not, we somehow felt like we did.
That snapshot of “us” would have revealed a confused and conflicted world, too, a place unsure who to follow, who to idolize, what to value. At that exact moment in time, however, Kobe Bryant seemed to check all the boxes.
Bryant excelled in every way imaginable. He did superhuman things in front of our very eyes. We knew him because the game of basketball introduced us, but before it was all said and done he’d made millions of dollars in business and touched millions of people as an artist. He was, by definition, a renaissance man. Yet, he was imperfect. Because of his platform, his imperfections were viewed under a microscope. His mistakes played out – fairly or not – in front of a massive audience unfamiliar to the commoner. But his evolution as a man – which was also anything but private – provided a reminder that there’s always time for improvement, always a place for humility.
And maybe the greatest thing about this global gathering was that we were reminded that what he did was less important than who he was. Sure, basketball was mentioned, but his accomplishments on the court weren’t necessarily celebrated yesterday. What really matters, though, was. A world that has so tightly embraced fame and money and status and “likes” was reminded, by everyone who spoke really, that the things that were truly important to Kobe Bryant, the concepts the truly defined him, should be important to us as well: Hard work, sacrifice, loyalty, parenthood, passion, love.
Fade-away jump shots and crossovers and dunks are just things to do, to watch, to cheer or boo depending on your team’s jersey. Fade-aways, after all, eventually fade away.
Bryant’s life outside of basketball was filled with the stuff that matters. Sadly, it took his death to remind us.