This past Sunday, the world was blindsided with the news of a helicopter crash that killed NBA champion Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, along with seven others. Bryant is survived by his wife, three daughters, and millions of fans. Bryant was a superstar on the court, known for his perseverance, grit and skill. Gianna was a rising basketball star herself, although only thirteen, she was excelling in her league and her dad had been quoted as saying she was better than he was at that age.
When the news broke on Sunday morning, people everywhere were shocked, confused and deeply saddened. Headlines were sent to group chats and echoes of ‘I didn’t think it was real’ could be heard all around. At the Grammy awards, which occurred the same day as the crash, there were numerous tributes to Bryant. The show took place in the Lakers stadium, where Bryant had spent his twenty year career playing, and his jerseys were illuminated the whole night.
In Canada, we lit up the CN tower in the purple and yellow colours that Bryant wore during his tenure with the Lakers. Fans, fellow players,and friends of Bryant all shared the numerous ways that they had been inspired by Bryant’s legacy, his kindheartedness, his passion and his tenacity.
Here at Redeemer, we remember Kobe as well. The women’s basketball team incorporated him into our practices this week. We would shoot twenty-four free throws, or continue a drill until we made twenty-four shots (Kobe’s jersey number was twenty-four for the second half of his career). We learned post moves that Kobe was well known for, and when we tied up our Kobe Bryant basketball shoes, we were conscious of the legacy we wore.
Monday evening at the beginning of our practice, our coach Jesse Vanhouwelingen talked with us about his reflections on this loss. He told us what it meant to him to be able to coach his own daughter in basketball, and to not take for granted the moments we have with those we love. He reminded us to take time to thank those people who got us to where we are now, who drive us to practices, support our dreams, and inspire us to play.
Kobe Bryant was a basketball superstar, but he was equally an amazing dad to his daughters. In the wake of the tragedy, many who knew him shared stories of how much he loved being a father, and how grateful he was for the opportunity to raise four daughters. Especially people shared how much he loved sharing his love for the game with Gianna. Often he would speak about how she would carry on his legacy, confident in her ability to make it in the world of basketball.
When I reflect on Kobe’s passing, I think of my own dad, his love for basketball, and for his kids. I have four sisters, two of whom play basketball, plus myself. We grew up on the sport, with my dad coaching us, encouraging us, sometimes dragging us to practice when we didn’t want to go, but always our biggest supporter. After every game I play, I call my dad, because I want to hear his feedback on how I did, and where he thinks I can do better. I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today without him. He loves the sport, and loves his kids; I am thankful for it every day, but especially today, and especially when I consider all that others have lost.
And so, we mourn the loss of one of the best basketball players of all time, who defined hustle, and inspired millions. We mourn a father, who loved his daughters, who championed young girls in their desire to play sports and who loved his family just as much as he loved the game.
Hug your family. Call your dad. Leave it all on the court.
By Lucy Brinkman