The game was played — perhaps mistakenly — under the pall of the news that Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash this morning in California, along with seven other passengers. Before tip-off, Madison Square Garden held 24 seconds of silence; in keeping with teams all through the league, both teams spent their opening possessions holding the ball for 24 seconds.
Kobe’s death seems no less momentous or complex than his life was. For some, a basketball player died, and all they wanna talk about is what a great basketball player he was. For others, a sex criminal died, and before the bodies go cold all they wanna talk about are his crimes. He was a tremendous player; that can never be forgotten. And the harm he caused to his victim in Colorado in 2003 can never and should never be forgotten, either. I can imagine what today might have been like for her. My heart breaks.
I suppose it’s different for everybody. Kobe was born a couple of months before me. We graduated high school the same year. I wanted to be an NBA star. So did he. Early on in his career, I latched on to him as the athlete I’d track throughout life in relation to myself. When he got old, I’d be old. Now he’ll never be old.
I think of Kobe as so gifted, as caring more what people thought of him than he let on, as someone who trusted ultimately in his drive and his will. For better and sometimes worse, he trusted himself more than anyone and everyone. I do, too. He seemed to love his daughters very much. I imagine him on the helicopter when things started to go wrong. I imagine his daughter being frightened. I imagine this gifted, driven man, who made so much money in his life, who had powerful friends and connections the world over. I imagine him realizing there was nowhere to turn, nothing he could do. I imagine him holding his child. My heart breaks.
Recap to come.