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It Wasn't Supposed to be Like This, Kobe

I stood in the center circle of the hardwood floor at Reunion Arena in 1995. I closed my eyes and drank in the reality of the moment. I was about to play on the same court as the Dallas Mavericks and all the legends of the game who had come through that gym. I was going to get to send the rock through the same net, sweat in the same seats and run through the same tunnel. I was in the presence of greatness, even though the NBA players weren't physically there.

Pictures of Michael Jordan meticulously cut from Sports Illustrated plastered my closet doors in high school. A life-size poster of Jason Kidd hung behind my door. Above my bed, the 1996 Dream Team smiled at me every day. A Reggie Miller jersey was all I wanted for Christmas my junior year, and I proudly sported Charles Barkley's CB 34's when I was on the court.

Not many girls had basketball posters in their rooms. The summer before my senior year, the Lakers drafted this kid straight out of high school. I remember thinking there's no way he could hack it in the NBA--he was almost my same age--how could he be strong enough, fast enough, skilled enough to make it at 18? This was in the days of no social media, no YouTube, so there was no way to see highlight film or clips of this high school phenom--just a couple clips on NBA's Inside Stuff every Saturday morning. I was busting my butt on the hardwood looking for any kind of scholarship, and here's this dude who goes straight to the NBA--unbelievable. Just who is this Kobe Bryant kid?

20 seasons later, Kobe is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time (I still love you the most, MJ). Just this past Saturday, LeBron James surpassed Kobe as the #3 all-time points leader. He played 1,346 games, averaged 25 points a game, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Kobe became a household name as he ranked among the greats like Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. He achieved pop-culture icon status, and you didn't even have to use his last name any more. When you throw away trash and make it in the bucket, you say, "Kobe!"

Today, this legend of the game was taken from us too soon. His helicopter crashed, killing him, his 13 year old daughter and seven others on board. I've never been one to get upset over celebrity deaths. Chester Bennington's suicide in 2017 hit me hard, because I related to his music so much, and it was such a tragic ending to such a tortured soul. But for some reason, Kobe's death today hit me hard. Maybe it's our shared love of the game; maybe it's that we are so close in age. Maybe it's because our daughters are the same age, both growing up loving the game we have dedicated our lives to.

Some people say basketball is just a game. My love for the game has only grown over the years. I still love the sounds: the swoosh of the net, the squeak of tennis shoes on the hardwood, the roar of the crowd. To this day, nothing gets my blood pumping like watching a basketball game. I argue that basketball is so much more than a game. It's the love and passion we have for the game that has brought fans together today. I've never really cared for the Lakers, but today, we are all Lakers fans. That's what basketball has done. It's why we are all crying tears of sorrow. In the end, life is about the people we love, but basketball is love, and this is the proof.

What is most sad about this tragedy is that this wasn't supposed to be Kobe's legacy. He was supposed to grow old, and become a commentator like Shaq and Charles. He was supposed to park it on the sidelines of the Staples Center cheering on his Lakers. After giving so much to the game, he still had so much more to give. I was supposed to watch Gianna play in the NCAA women's tournament in a few years. I was supposed to watch her go to the WNBA.

It's moments like these that we are reminded of the fragility of human life. We are reminded that our time on earth is finite. It's moments like these that we say, "It's not supposed to be like this." It's also moments like these that we cry out to God and ask, "Why?" I'm then reminded that the question should really be, "Why not?" Why would a famous basketball player be exempt from heartache and tragedy? Only God knows why, and we don't need to know, and we don't need to ask "Why?" We need to draw ever nearer to the Lord for our comfort. We need to be reminded that we are never promised tomorrow, so we need to tell those whom we love how we feel every day and hug them a little tighter.

*Getty Images


  1. At 32 and a female, I still have his poster on my wall. One that I got when I first watched him play in person. I also have a photo of him winning his Oscar on my wall.
    It has affected me more then any other celebrities. Like you said. It was since we knew him for so many years. Watched as he grew up from a selfish ball player to a wonderful husband and writer


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