Basketball is not my game. I doubt if I have ever watched an entire basketball game in my lifetime. But I do live on Planet Earth and like millions of others, Kobe Bryant had instant name recognition. To say it was like a punch in the stomach when the shocking news came in – is not a simile sufficiently dignified to capture the inner feeling I and countless others experienced.

Dead at 41!

The ancient adage from the Holy Bible is true:

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. James 4:14 NLT

400,000 pictures of Kobe Bryant later, photographer Andrew Bernstein cherishes his very first shot of Kobe, when he was just an 18-year-old rookie fresh out of high school.

Before Kobe Bryant won five NBA championships, before he was named NBA MVP, before he became an 18-time NBA all-star, before the Academy Award and the Olympic gold medals and the business empire, he was an 18-year-old rookie fresh out of high school — and that’s when Los Angeles Lakers team photographer Andrew Bernstein first met the promising young athlete. (1)

Just 23 years later, the world is mourning his death. As media outlets replayed interview clips of Kobe Bryant from the past, I heard him say “Life is too short to …”

…like the morning fog—he’s here a little while, then he’s gone.

When Kobe Bryant was just 21, he was thinking about his future and life after basketball.

“I said to myself, I’ll probably play to 35, 36, whatever the case may be…. What am I going to do with the rest of my life? What comes next? … ? … It’s not as easy as basketball, because I was born to play basketball and had to really work to figure out what comes next… That’s really hard, man; really, really hard. But that’s what we as athletes have to figure out.”   (2)

There seems to be a paucity of quotes or even insights into Kobe’s faith or spiritual ponderings. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles tweeted: “he was sad to hear the news” and offered prayers for him and his family. Gomez was in Rome visiting Pope Francis. He told the Catholic News Agency:  Bryant “was a very good Catholic, a faithful Catholic” and recalled meeting the famed basketball player on several occasions. (3)

There is no dispute – Kobe Bryant was a great athlete. Later he demonstrated his business acumen with BodyArmor Sports drink. A husband and by all accounts a great father too. In fact, one of the reasons he used a helicopter for years, was to avoid Los Angeles traffic delays in order to maximize his time with his children each day. (4)

His decency and thoughtfulness and mentoring-nature were on full display just minutes before the unexpected end. At 8:29 a.m., he texted Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef: “You good fam?” At 10:25 a.m., Shareef replied: “Yeah! Just been getting this work in trying to figure out my next move. How you been?” (5)

But Kobe never got to read Shareef’s response.

There was dense morning fog. Nine people boarded the limousine-like Sikorsky S-76B, Tail No. N72EX  heading to watch a basketball game in LA. Perhaps the pilot became disoriented in the fog. At almost 300 kmh, N72EX descended at a rate of more than 1,200 metres per minute. (6)

Between Kobe Bryant’s text to Shareef at 8:29 am and Shareef’s response at 10:25 a.m., the local authorities received a 911 call at precisely 9:47 a.m.  N72EX had crashed into the rugged terrain of Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles with nine precious souls onboard, including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. James 4:14 NLT

Here is ancient wisdom from the Holy Bible:

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2 NIV

Pray for the Bryant family and the other families who mourn. But also think about your own life. Are you prepared? Are you right with God?

This post concludes with two poems. Kobe Bryant’s – Dear Basketball and William Featherstone’s written at Age 16 many years ago. Consider the theme of both and ask yourself what ‘love’ you would write about.

Dear Basketball,

From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself

 

Running out of one.

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always, Kobe  (7)

Sources:

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/lakers-photographer-who-shot-400-000-pictures-of-kobe-bryant-reveals-the-one-photo-he-will-never-forget-1.5441551
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/27/sport/kobe-bryant-legacy-spt-intl/index.html
  3. https://catholic-sf.org/news/the-catholic-faith-of-kobe-bryant
  4. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/27/us/sikorsky-kobe-bryant-helicopter/index.html
  5. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/kobe-bryant-messaged-shaquille-oneal-son-shareef-hours-before-dying-2020-01-27/
  6. https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/kobe-bryant-helicopter-investigation-1.5442548j
  7. https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/contributors/kbryant

Other sources:

https://www.nbcsports.com/video/bill-russell-athletes-pay-tribute-lakers-legend-kobe-bryant-after-death

https://larrybrownsports.com/