I try to stay away from scrolling through Twitter and Facebook as I usually find it as a huge time waster and a distraction from my life, but on Sunday, I found myself continually scrolling through tweets and posts. Nearly every post was about the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter Gianna, who left us way too early along with the seven others in a fatal helicopter crash in Calabasas. Whether you’re an athlete, former-athlete, coach, fan, parent, whatever the case, the news likely made your world come to a complete stop for a moment.
I grew up in the Chicago area loving sports and loving basketball. Following high school basketball, college basketball and the NBA. I’d practice on the hoop in my backyard pretending I was the players I was watching; stars like Jon Scheyer, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, and of course, Kobe Bryant. And if you grew up playing basketball, there’s about a 99.9% chance you’ve chucked up a fade-away or shouted “Kobe” as you tossed your trash out.
As I scroll through everyone tweeting about Kobe, its the players I grew up watching, teammates I’ve had and opponents I’ve faced. All talking about how much they loved Kobe, or that he’s the reason they started playing. It’s while seeing all of this that I realized the impact Kobe has made on my love for basketball, but more importantly on the sports world and the life of many others. Kobe was an inspiration to so many across a wide range of sports and across the globe.
I’ve never seen as many tweets about one person fill up my timeline as I have over the past 24 hours. And it’s important to know why. Kobe Bryant showed us the mentality of a competitor. What it takes to earn respect and face challenges. A mentality that has applications in both sports and in life. He taught us that success isn’t given to you, it comes with hard work, commitment and sacrifice. That failure isn’t something to fear, but something necessary to development. He taught us to bet on ourselves. That it’s okay to show emotion. That thinking too much about the past means that you aren’t being present right now and to be at your best you need to be present in the moment. Finally, he taught us to take nothing for granted and get everything you can out of every day, every minute and every second.
We as humans like to share positive experiences because having someone else to experience something with us actually makes us enjoy it more. Conversely, when we experience something bad, sharing the experience with someone else makes it feel worse. For example, as I read through more tweets, I felt worse just knowing that so many others were feeling this way. The act of sharing actually changes how we experience it. However, when people experience the same bad emotions, it also creates a bond, allowing us to empathize with others. We’ve all experienced watching Kobe’s career: his five NBA championships, his 81-point game and his farewell 60-point game. Most of us shared similar loves as Kobe: sports and family. And for those of us who grew up with these as the most important parts of our lives, it hits home hard and hurts us all to see this happen to someone like Kobe and his family.
As we mourn the loss of Kobe, we realize how many others enjoyed him as much as we did and it helps us remember and honor who Kobe was. After hearing the news on Sunday, multiple NBA teams began games by taking a 24-second violation or an 8-second violation to honor Kobe and the numbers he wore as an NBA player. Neymar dedicated a goal to Kobe and Tennis player Nick Kyrgios came out and warmed up in a Kobe jersey for his match at the Australian Open. Multiple cities have paid tribute to Kobe with Purple and Gold lights. The UConn women’s basketball team honored Kobe’s daughter Gigi by setting out a jersey along with flowers. These are moments that give you chills and allow all of us to realize how far Kobe Bryant’s influence reached. We will remember his greatness and continue the mamba mentality and we definitely won’t stop shouting “Kobe” as we knock-down that fade-away into the garbage can.