Kobe Bryant: A Lot Of Legacies
A Dad And His Girl
The Kobe Bryant Chopper Crash: Different Things To Different People
I never followed basketball, but I definitely knew who Kobe Bryant was.
I remember the fuss that was made when Bryant, then just 21, started dating and then became engaged to the woman who became his wife, Vanessa Laine, who was just 17 when they met. The media scrutiny was so intense that she had to finish high school through home schooling, and she was unable to attend her prom. Of course, he went on to become one of the most skilled NBA players in history and was widely idolized by young up and comers.
I remember the sexual assault case, where the criminal matter ended up being dropped when Bryant's accuser wouldn't take the stand and the subsequent civil suit that was settled out of court. I was stunned, at the time, that his wife chose to stay with him, as I couldn't imagine that anything as serious as a sexual assault accusation would allow a couple to remain intact. Of course, the couple went on to have four daughters, and Gianna, the second oldest at 13 and an adept basketball player in her own right, was killed alongside her father in the helicopter crash on January 26, 2020.
My youngest and I were in the car and listening to the radio when we got the news that Bryant had died, and I was shocked. I guess it's because Kobe Bryant seemed much younger than his 41 years, and in my head, I still saw him as the high-flying player he was in his very early days in the NBA. When we learned that his daughter was also in the helicopter with him, my heart broke. As a parent, and as a wife, I suddenly felt myself in Vanessa Bryant's shoes, learning not only of her husband's tragic death but of her daughter's as well.
There can possibly be nothing worse for someone than to outlive their child. I can only imagine what Vanessa Bryant must be trying to do in order to get through her day, particularly given she also has to contend with being a parent to two very young children, ages 3 and 7 months. While she also has an older daughter, who is 17, that will have very tangible memories of both her dad and her sister, the two youngest Bryant kids will likely have no solid recollection of their dad or sister as they grow up. The three-year-old will likely only wonder where Daddy and Gigi have gone, or why Momma and their oldest sister seem so sad. The youngest won't understand any of it for pretty obvious reasons.
That's heartbreaking enough, but when you also consider what Kobe Bryant, as well as the other parents of the other two children in the chopper when it went down, must have gone through in their final moments, it's devastating. If any of the adults had any opportunity to consider what was happening, or how inescapable their fates were in that moment, their thoughts would have no doubt been consumed with trying to reassure their little girls that they were loved and that they were together. I can only pray that the parents on that helicopter did not have time to feel guilt over the fact that they were not able to protect their children from what was about to happen.
As parents, we want nothing more than to protect our children and ensure they feel safe and loved. While there would have been no way to predict that this tragedy would have occurred in the days leading up to it, I would hate to think that Kobe or any of the other parents in their final moments would do anything other than to hold their kids close, send a final prayer up to whatever god they might believe in, and tell their kids they love them.
We can lionize Kobe Bryant all we want for his incredible skills on the basketball court, or for his incredibly philanthropic spirit, or even for how much he loved his friends and family. Some have sent out stark reminders of the dark chapter in Bryant's life when he was charged with sexual assault.
At the end of the day, though, he was a man, learning more about himself as the years went on and learning how to share that with others. He was a dad who by all accounts loved his wife and daughters dearly, and that is probably what Kobe Bryant's ultimate legacy should be.