NOT all people who die were good people. Yet there is strong social pressure to pretend they were, at least for a period of time.
In almost every culture, posthumous praise immediately after a person’s death is the norm. Except in cases of the most obviously evil figures, it is generally accepted that the hours and days after a death should be a time of remembrance, grief and praise.
Not only the sporting community was stunned on Sunday, January 26, 2020, but the entire world as news of one of basketball greatest-ever players in the game’s history, Kobe Bryant’s death broke into the air.
Bryant and his 13-year old daughter, Giana, alongside two of his daughter’s playmates, college basketball coach and his wife and daughter, an assistant girls basketball coach from Corona Del Mal and a mother of Giana’s playmate, together with the pilot, Ara Zobayan all died in a helicopter crash at Calabasas, California on their way to Thousand Oaks, California, where they were scheduled for basketball game.
Even when basketball may not be a too popular game in many climes, the names of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and a few others ring bell across the globe.
But what does Bryant’s life and death mean to you?
At 41, a quiet force of nature, 1.84 metres tall , on the court who gave himself the nickname Black Mamba, retired in 2016 with five N.B.A championship rings and a long list of N.B.A. records, signing with the league right out of high school at 20 years in 1996, he changed the way the N.B.A. identified, groomed and developed budding youngsters. Only few high schoolers made this mark.
But Bryant was far more than a basketball giant, holding down his ground in the pantheon of all-time global athletes, neck-to-neck with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and others sports luminaries of such stellar cast.
Among his laurels and accolades were an Oscar award for an animated short film on his life in 2018 and another posthumous Grammy recognition.
Seen as a largely beloved figure, though sexual assault charges in 2003 cast a shadow over his image, Bryant publicly admitted to having consensual extramarital sex with the 19-year-old accuser though he said he did not commit any crime. The charges were ultimately dropped as the accuser declined to testify with the superstar reaching a civil settlement which allowed him to resume his storied career during which he evolved into fatherhood and a man with business interests stretching far beyond his sport.
This is why news of Bryant’s death was immediately described in tragic terms, the premature end to the life of a worldwide phenomenon who touched the lives of basketball fans and even those who had little interest in the sport.
Little wonder his closest friend, James Le’Bron was too devastated and heartbroken on hearing the saddest news of the 2020 days in his life. Expressing his grief, Le’Brown wrote in his Twitter, “I’m not ready but here I go. I am sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try, I begin crying again. Just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship, bond brotherhood we had.”
Predictably, N.B.A was among his first mourners, eulogizing Bryant as “a mammoth figure almost from the moment he arrived at age 17 for his endless reservoir of self-confidence which propelled him to 13th overall pick in the 1996 western circuit.”
Bryant was at a point drafted by Charlotte Hornets on behalf of Lakers and did not hide his ambition to surpass accomplishments of legendary Jordan, thereby making Charlotte to agree to trade Bryant’s rights to Los Angeles in exchange for the veteran centre back,Vlade Divac.
Over the next 20 seasons, Bryant would go on to earn 18 All-Star selections, a regular-season Most Valuable Player Award in 2008 and two N.B.A finals M.V.P. awards to go with his five championship rings and two Olympic gold medals.
There are seven career bests that are key moments which defined Bryant’s legacy but the trade that made Bryant a Laker was engineered by the team’s general manager at the time, Jerry West, who was instantly smitten by Bryant’s fearlessness and prodigious talent. He also had a standout at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, outside Philadelphia, after having already auditioned for Lakers in a pre draft workout featuring a series of one-on-one drills against the former Lakers defensive ace Michael Cooper, then a 40-year-old assistant coach.
Born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, Bryant was married to Vanessa Laine Bryant in 2001 until the chopper crash that claimed their lives with one of their daughters, aged 13.
With three daughters, Natalia, Bianca, Capri and wife, Vanessa left behind, the pains of a great star, father, coach and friend lost before the dawn keeps weighing in the hearts of his fans across the globe. Lakers girls’ team where his coaching career put him after a blistering basketball career that brought him fame may not recover from the shock of his death in a hurry, as they waited for his arrival that fateful Sunday only to receive the bombshell that it had all ended for their dear coach.
Life will continue to move on from where Bryant stopped but the big question is, who will fill the void Bryant’s exit has created both to Lakers, family and fans all over the world?
Reminiscing Bryant’s life, the living ought to be mindful of the fact that what counts in a man’s successful life is not the number of years lived but the values put into the years lived. At 41, Bryant saw almost everything, achieved more to give the world most to remember him for.
The deluge of tributes coming the way of Bryant since the ill fated Sunday is a testimony that the world appreciates life lived to impact on others positively.
National Light joins the rest of the world in mourning one of the brightest stars and legends of this generation, while calling on all, irrespective of colour, race and background to toe the path of honour with practical service delivery to humanity and pious dedication.
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