Monday, January 27, 2020

Kobe et al

When I got a text message from a friend telling me that retired NBA legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning, I was skeptical. Nevertheless, I flipped around to ESPN, ESPN 2, NBA TV and all three major news networks, but none had been reporting on such a thing. I then hopped on Twitter. Sure, there was speculation but nothing official. However, within minutes, the story was confirmed.

My immediate emotions were similar to what I felt when Magic Johnson announced in November 1991 that he was retiring from the NBA due to contracting the HIV virus. Obviously that wasn't the same as someone dying abruptly, but it felt like it. The devastation and sorrow conveyed by Magic's contemporaries were similar to what today's NBA players were displaying during Sunday's scheduled games. Sure Kobe had been retired for 3-1/2 years, but his impact was still very much felt. After all, a lot of the NBA players in their early to late 20s cited Kobe as someone they aspired to emulate.

One thing I noticed when regular folks expressed sorrow and devastation over Kobe's death was other people feeling the need to question their priorities. That is, the people who expressed sadness over the loss were lectured on the merits of displaying similar emotions for those killed in active duty military or those succumbing to an incurable disease like cancer. The fact is a lot of kids admire and revere professional athletes (Whether or not that's emotionally healthy is a debate for another day). I would venture to say that a significant number of pre adult boys who were NBA fans had a tremendous amount of reverence for a player like Kobe Bryant. So when a legend like Kobe dies unexpectedly, those same fans (most of whom are young adults today) feel as though a part of their childhood also perished. I don't care how well-adjusted an adult you are, it's hurtful to lose someone who you remember as a positive force in your "kid years." In addition, it's also supremely arrogant to assume that the people being chided as having their priorities out of whack aren't also affected by loss in other areas. So for those who feel the need to de-legitimatize someone's heartfelt sentiments? Don't be one of those self-righteous ninnies, k?

With all that said, we should indeed extend our heartfelt condolences to not only the family of Kobe and Gianna (Bryant's 13-year old daughter who was also killed in the crash) but also to the loved ones of the seven others who died.

What an incredbily sad, surreal day.


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