Why we grieved for Kobe Bryant
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - February 4, 2020 - 12:00am

Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash with eight other people that included his 13-year-old daughter last January 26, and people all over the world grieved. There was an outpouring of tributes and accolades even from people who hardly knew him, or basketball, or the NBA. While the NBA has gone international, there are actually more attendance and TV audiences in European football games than in basketball games worldwide. Yet Kobe’s death had more coverage, expressions of sympathy and grief than when a young European footballer died last year. Why is this so, and who are the “we” that grieved for Kobe?

Kobe was a talented basketball player who played for the LA Lakers for his entire NBA career and was in the team through five NBA championship titles. He retired some four years ago from professional basketball but was always in the public eye because of his social activities related to basketball and charities. He was accused and indicted for sexual aggression which was eventually settled out of court with the complainant financially compensated. In his public statement after the settlement, Kobe admitted partial culpability and expressed remorse. It was at this time that Kobe became a reborn Catholic and practiced his faith with his family. He became an admirable father and husband which was widely chronicled and appreciated in the main and social media. Gianna, his daughter who died with him in the crash, became an aspiring basketball player in school, and they were on the way to the games in that helicopter. Kobe was 41 when he died. We grieved for Kobe because he was an exceptional talent who redeemed himself and could have achieved more.

Information technology and the social media have made Kobe a big personality, even bigger when he was no longer actively playing in the NBA. He had the persona and the savvy that makes good copy and he lived close to Hollywood. He had appeared in some movies and could have made more in a matter of time. He had amassed enough wealth, estimated at $500 million to live a comfortable and stylish life. He had broadened his appeal from the Baby Boomer generation to the Millennials, who had not even seen Kobe play at the height of his basketball career. He was an inspiration to the many athletes in his time and after his active playing time, because of what he had done during his prime and what he became after leaving the game. We grieved for Kobe because we were made aware of what he had done and it inspired us.

The circumstances of Kobe’s tragic death further contributed to the grief. He was to coach his daughter’s team in the basketball game when the helicopter crashed into a mountain. This was caught live on camera and footage came out in social media showing the helicopter falling until it hit the ground. Photos and footage of the crash site with the debris strewn all over the area made for a very chilling scene. We grieved for Kobe because it was an unnecessary and accidental death.

Kobe death came at a stressful time for the world. Socio-political unrest and demonstrations were happening in Latin America, the Middle East, Hong Kong, North Korea, Africa, and Asia. There is the ongoing impeachment in the US, the Brexit, and a war in Ukraine. Add to these, the uncontrollable forest fires in Australia, the flooding and droughts in various countries, the volcanic eruptions in New Zealand and the Philippines, and the emergence of the new coronavirus. We have a world population on extreme anxiety and stress. A world on edge. We grieved for Kobe because it was a tragedy with an end, while we are grappling with the unending tragedies of our lives.

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