January 26th, 2020 the world was shaken as reports began to surface that Kobe Bryant had perished in a devastating helicopter accident.
As the world tried to cope with the loss of the “ICON”, the devastation suffered by his wife, children, mom and dad, amongst others, was evident.
The last time I saw Kobe prior to his death was December 19th, 2019 as he and his beautiful 13-year old daughter Gianna, who also perished on this fateful day, both entered Staples Center.
They were there to see the Lakers and LeBron James face-off against the Dallas Mavericks and their star Luka Doncic.
Crazy thing is, the attention was never really on Bron or Luka, but on Kobe and his daughter, as he sported a bright orange WNBA hoodie. No one could’ve imagined it would be the last time ever he’d visit Staples Center.
On the night in which LeBron James passed the 9,000 career assists plateau, Luka and the Black Mamba embraced.
Kobe even spoke “Slovenian” as Doncic was set to take the ball out. That move prompted the young talented Doncic to look back and see who was speaking his native language. It was no one else other than the fluent five language-speaking Kobe. Luka and Kobe exchanged pleasantries as the rookie was surely impressed.
As Kobe left the arena waving, the fans stood and applauded him with the belief that they would see him and Gigi again soon, walking into the place he’d won five NBA Titles and provided so many unbelievable memories.
A year ago today Kobe, Gianna and seven others passed in that horrific helicopter crash. The memories of Bryant’s complicated and brilliant legacy still resonates with us, and may for the rest of our lives.
Two years before his death, we watched as his two jerseys were raised to the rafters of the Staples Center, while his beloved family looked on courtside. During his incredible speech he looked right at his wife Vanessa, daughters Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and toddler Capri standing there before him.
He quoted the following:
“Those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t wanna push yourself but you do it anyway, that is actually the dream.” He went on to add that it’s important that his girls understand that he’s done his job as a father.
In June 2010, he secures his fifth championship ring in a riveting, hard-fought seven-game series win over the arch-nemesis Boston Celtics.
As he perspired heavily, all he cared about was finding and hugging his family, while enjoying this surreal moment with them, as purple and gold confetti fell everywhere.
The memories he’s brought me and my family are so amazing, and I personally don’t take them for granted. I’ve always shared a love and passion for the game with my late great uncle Martin Mason. He played a pivotal role in me and him getting “NBA League Pass”, so we could watch all the games and especially when we were together.
During the aforementioned Mavericks game, you could see the camera spent a lot of time on Kobe and Gianna, and you’d see him giving Gianna advice. Seeing that reminded me of my uncle and how he taught me the game. I now do it with my daughter India and she’s so appreciative.
Basketball is a way of bonding for us, whether the game’s on TV or we go to games live here in DC, or me yelling at her games or as she worked on getting better.
Like Kobe, I am a “GirlDad”
I have three daughters who mean the absolute world to me. Bryant embodies what it meant to be a doting dad to his four daughters. He became a champion of women’s sports, and even won an Oscar in 2018 for Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball, and was an inspiration to young athletes all over the world.
He also produced books, movies, and podcasts, for young children, with many being for young girls specifically. Kobe was a global “ICON.”
As I look back on his accomplishments on the hardwood they standout for sure. I also think about how he didn’t just champion for the WNBA, but he also set the very foundation for the advancement of girls and women’s basketball at all levels. He opened Mamba Academy to do just that.
So for me, no other achievement was bigger for Kobe than being a “GirlDad” and being the absolute best he could be at it.
So in ending it gives me a little comfort and solace knowing Kobe died doing what he did best and loved doing most.
Being A Father.