With a sad irony there was a coming together of those that had any kind of connection with Kobe Bryant on both sides of the country. The New York Times had as much to say about Kobe as the Los Angeles Times did. The irony comes from the union of all colors, race and creed upon the death of a star. Far too often death, and not life, is what precipitates a most humane reaction underscored by unity.
The day before Kobe died the LA Times Sports Section had revealed that LeBron James had just surpassed Koby’s point total for the Lakers with Koby calling and congratulating him. Inasmuch as he did not allow his ego to obstruct his view of a fellow player’s greatness, this act by Koby, though small, showed his fullness of character. The next morning, Sunday, in disbelief, I heard the tragic news of his death in a helicopter.
Although I very much enjoyed playing basketball when I was younger, I never was a particularly avid fan. However, when I did watch Koby play with the Lakers, his unbridled enthusiasm and love of the game were apparent. It is evident that this love of the game continued on in his relationship with his daughter, Gianna, and more generally, with women’s basketball.
To his credit, Kobe recovered from what could have been a very serious rape charge that occurred in 2003. The case never made it to trial because the woman involved decided not to go through the arduous procedure of testifying. The case was resolved, civilly, with Kobe paying her an undisclosed amount of money out of court. Although he did apologize for his behavior, afterwards he still maintained that the sex he had had was consensual.
From there his marriage had its ups and downs, with a subsequent trial separation. However, at the time of his death he and his wife, Vanessa, appeared to have worked through and resolved their marital difficulties. Much of Kobe’s enthusiasm playing basketball had been transferred to developing the skills of his daughter and other young females’ intent on basketball. Indeed, this was a constructive use of his energies.
One of the hardest challenges facing stars, whether they excel as athletes or in some other profession, is to maintain their loyalty to their wives and children. Perhaps Kobe’s stable family of origin helped him overcome the temptation of wandering. Certainly, love and marriage at such a young age as Kobe was, when he married, often does not bode well for any star who is in the limelight and the center of public attention. Immediate wealth and fame can overcome the sensitivities of any young starlet, male or female. Kobe was able to beat the devil of stardom, and from what we know now, become a devoted father, husband and family man. Perhaps it is this latter characteristic of Kobe that has made his premature death that much more difficult to accept by both the public and those that knew him.