"Basketball and family"
A Kennedy moment is how US media describe the untimely death of basketball star Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California. Bryant, 41, his second oldest daughter, Gianna, 13, and seven others died in the accident.
The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was flying low against a mountain hill amid mist, fog, and clouds when it crashed, barely 40 minutes after takeoff from Orange County. The impact broke the copter into several pieces with its debris scattered over a radius of 600 feet. The tail and the rotor separated over 100 yards apart.
The youngest elected US president, John F. Kennedy was assassinated shortly afternoon of Nov. 23, 1963, while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. His murder traumatized America and the entire world. Everyone remembers the moment he or she learned about JFK’s death and where he or she was. The event is forever seared in everyone’s memory.
The helicopter crash shortly before 10 Sunday morning (around 2 a.m. Monday in Manila) most likely will have the same JFK effect today on everyone who loves basketball, who loves sports, and who can feel the pain of the loss of from Kobe’s untimely death.
Kobe was the youngest player in the National Basketball Association, making his leap in 1996-97 from high school into a glittering 20-year career in professional basketball with a lot of flash, class, and flamboyance.
Lusting for blood, he was determined to surpass his idol Michael Jordan’s achievements. He became one of basketball’s greatest players.
Playing only for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe won the NBA championship five times, earned 18 All-Star Selections, a regular season Most Valuable Player Award in 2008, and two NBA Finals MVP awards, plus two Olympic gold medals. He was slated to be enrolled in the 2020 Hall of Fame in April.
Kobe was recruited by the Lakers team general manager Jerry West after noticing the teener’s prodigious talent in a series of one-on-one drills against the former Lakers defensive star Michael Cooper, the assistant coach.
“As West envisioned, Bryant indeed helped restore the Lakers to glory—albeit with no shortage of turmoil along the way. He did so first alongside the Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal for three consecutive drama-filled N.B.A. championships in the 1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons, then as the team’s unquestioned fulcrum for two more titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10. With a drive to rival Jordan’s and an ability to tune out critics who at times assailed his ball dominance and shot selection, Bryant was the central and enduring figure in one of the most gripping soap operas in modern professional team sports,” said the New York Times obituary.
Recalled the Washington Post’s Kent Babb:
“In sports and in life, Bryant was an individual whose tirelessness and competitive drive were as notable as his versatility and ambition. Known late in his career by the nickname ‘Black Mamba’, Mr. Bryant was one of the smoothest and most dangerous shooters in a league previously dominated by Jordan, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson and Larry Bird. When those players retired or their talents faded, Mr. Bryant took up their mantle. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard was named to the NBA’s all-star team in 18 of his 20 seasons, all with the Lakers, and he twice led the league in scoring.
“He scored 81 points during a game in 2006, the second-highest total in a game in league history.
“He and Shaquille O’Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive championships, from 2000 to 2002, though perhaps more impressive was Mr. Bryant’s ability to push the Lakers back into the league’s championship ranks after the departures of O’Neal and coach Phil Jackson, who had guided Jordan’s Chicago Bulls to six championships during the 1990s.”
Bryant’s 81-point production, mostly on jumpers, gave the Lakers a come from behind victory against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006 is said to be the most impressive in NBA history.
On April 12, 2013, with the score at 109-109 against the Golden State Warriors, Bryant shot two free throws despite a ruptured Achilles tendon and won the game for the Lakers. After that, Kobe did not play for the rest of the season and appeared in just 107 games in three seasons. He capped his career on April 13, 2016 by scoring 60 points to push last-place Lakers past the Utah Jazz, a perfect ending, said The New York Times.
“Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” Michael Jordan said in a statement Jan 26 afternoon. “I loved Kobe —he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” said former president Barack Obama. “To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents.”
In 1992, after South Africa with a team that had only one non-white player won the Rugby World Cup, Nelson Mandela, himself a driven athlete before he was jailed for 27 years, recited the power of sports. He declared:
“Sport has the power to change the world,” Mandela said. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
To me, Kobe loved two things—basketball and his family. He had two formulas for success—hard work and discipline.