Legendary NBA star Kobe Bryant died on Sunday at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash that killed eight other people including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna. It’s a tragedy of such magnitude in the sports world that it is only fitting that former President Barack Obama paid tribute.
In what appears to be a freak accident involving bad flying weather, Bryant and his daughter were taken away from the world before their time. Kobe won five NBA championships during his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers and achieved multiple accolades that served as an inspiration for young basketball players around the world. Perhaps no other NBA player except Michael Jordan had a bigger impact on the game.
But Kobe Bryant was much more than a great basketball player. He was a son, a husband and a father who deeply loved his wife and four children. He gave his time and money to charities and gave back to the community. With a larger than life personality and a sense of humor, he brought smiles to the faces of his fans everywhere and entertained beyond basketball by writing a poem that became a short film, winning him an Oscar in 2018 two years after he retired from the NBA.
His daughter, Gianna, also perished in the crash. And even though she grew up in the shadow of her father’s greatness, she was quickly forging her own path in basketball and clearly could have been a star in her own right. Sadly, we can only imagine what might have been.
In light of such a tragedy, we often look to our leaders to give us comfort. Sadly, the current occupant of the White House can only offer false sympathy as he desperately tries to tie himself to the best among us such as Kobe Bryant, who had been a strong critic of Trump for causing division and anger throughout the nation and the globe.
A #POTUS whose name alone creates division and anger. Whose words inspire dissension and hatred can’t possibly “Make America Great Again”
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) September 23, 2017
It’s not surprising. After all, Kobe Bryant grew up as a worldly child, living in Italy for a time during his childhood and being exposed to other cultures, languages, and traditions while learning to respect them at the same time. Kobe may not have attended college, having been drafted to the NBA right out of high school, but he was an educated man.
As such, he supported and looked up to Obama, not just because they both shared a love of basketball, but because Obama represents ideals of community, international cooperation, and humanity that he himself strove to live up to.
And that brings us to Kobe’s political footprint, which should not be ignored when talking about his legacy.
“It’s extremely important,” Bryant once said of voting. “The discussion that [I] always have centers around, ‘How do you educate the youth about the issues so that they have a clear perspective of what they’re voting on?’ That’s how you influence change.”
“We have a democratic system,” Bryant continued. “You can vote and choose what you want to support and what you don’t want to support, but having the knowledge of understanding what you’re voting for is the most important thing. The platforms that we have available in social media can make the process a very seamless one. But it’s about organizing that information in a way that’s easily digestible.”
And so, the most important presidential statement on Kobe’s death on Sunday came from Obama, who expressed his condolences and took the death of Bryant’s daughter Gianna especially hard, seeing as how he has two daughters of his own.
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
It may be somewhat comforting to Bryant’s family that neither he, nor Gianna, died alone. In the end, they had each other and one imagines that they are on a court in the great beyond shooting hoops together in peace.
As the world mourns for them and offers thoughts and prayers for their heartbroken family, we can reflect on the legacy Kobe Bryant left behind both on and off the court and know that he will never be forgotten.
Featured Image: Wikimedia