I Watched Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Burn 😢❤️
I look down at a text message on my phone:
“Dude, Kobe died”
I dropped to my knees and my brain stopped working. In this exact moment, reading these two words stringed together “Kobe died” made my brain collapsed.
The left side of my brain was trying to make sense between a sentence that cannot make sense in the English language. There weren’t any tools in my mind to comprehend or make sense of what that means.
The right side of my brain was trying to feel the news of “Kobe died” but my implicit emotional memory could not draw on any past experiences to guide me or inform me of the emotion to feel.
36 Minutes Later
TMZ. CBS. Fox. KTLA. ESPN. Every network was repeating the same words confirming that “Kobe has died in a helicopter crash.”
In my mind I thought, okay it’s not April 1st and this isn’t some Onion article.
WHAT THE FUCK. NO NO NO.
I live 13 minutes from the crash-site in Calabasas.
I got in my car, and I broke several speeding laws. As I approached the area where he died, cars were lined up bumper to bumper. I had to park far away and then walk.
I was walking at a fast-pace. I kept walking and turning my head. I kept looking at people’s heads from afar — noticing they were all looking left. I knew they were looking at Kobe’s helicopter.
I finally walked to the cross streets of Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street.
I turned my head to the left.
There it was. The burning smoke.
I could see the smoke burning from Kobe’s helicopter.
I was looking right at it. I was looking right at him.
Dozens of news stations.
Hundreds and hundreds of people.
We were all just staring. We all knew this was Kobe. We all knew Kobe died, but we just stared.
Maybe if we all stared long enough, we would find out additional news about the condition Kobe is in.
I started to wonder that if we all stared long enough — perhaps it would undo what we couldn’t comprehend.
I think we were all staring so deeply so that we can actually create a reality where Kobe was still alive.
It definitely did NOT feel like the start of 2020 because nothing seemed perfectly clear in the devastating picture I was looking at. I took off my glasses because I’d seen enough.
1 Hour Later
“Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, was also on board the helicopter.”
At this point, I started crying. I couldn’t handle it.
I now look at the same helicopter. I am looking at the same smoke, but now I envision little GiGi.
My emotions are flooding.
Words Cannot Describe
I start to imagine what must have been going through Kobe’s mind, as a father, going down in a helicopter — knowing you and your beloved daughter are going to die. FUCK.
I can’t fathom or comprehend the emotions going through the minds of those people on board.
The human brain isn’t designed to take in something so unimaginable all at once. This is the hard part. This takes time. I am heartbroken realizing this.
I look at the picture of them, and I cannot imagine their non-existence in a world they exist to millions of people. A paradox: Staring at an image telling you they do not exist anymore and your mind rejecting their non-existence.
Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gigi, leave behind a wife and mother Vanessa, and three little girls.
I try to practice the one thing that makes me the most human: empathy.
Everyone has been affected.
A love for those who loved Kobe Bryant
My experience as a child wasn’t like most Kobe fans. I wasn’t watching every Lakers game. I wasn’t watching and following Kobe Bryant highlights. I wasn’t talking sports with my friends every day. I didn’t have that opportunity.
But I sure as hell can empathize with everyone and feel his impact to all those around me.
Kobe represented the Lakers. Kobe is the name that is synonymous and interchangeable with NBA or basketball. Kobe is basketball. Kobe is the reason people got into sports. Kobe is the reason people fell in love with the NBA. Kobe is the reason basketball players work hard with an undying work ethic. Kobe is the reason people fell in love. Kobe is the reason Los Angeles bleeds purple and yellow.
Now it’s Kobe and Gigi’s blood spilled, and now the entire planet is bleeding purple and yellow.
Kobe represents all of sports. To all the greats in the world, Kobe was one of the most recognized athletes in the world.
When people deeply, deeply understand the source of their energy and their breath to wake up every day and achieve greatness— it’s incredibly heartbreaking to know when that reason is no longer breathing.
To watch the entire NBA cry in waterfalls of tears from grown men absolutely broke me. To watch thousands and thousands of people gather at Staples Center to mourn the loss of Kobe broke me.
I empathize with those who are so much more deeply connected to Kobe than I am. I feel the sadness, the grief, the confusion, and the rippling shock throughout the world.
Kobe’s legacy went beyond the NBA. It crossed through all of us. Kobe’s legacy impacted those who are aspiring to be great athletes, entrepreneurs, husbands, fathers, and philanthropists.
It’s the first time in my entire life and will probably be the only time in my lifetime that I will get to experience the actual effect of a Legacy. I only read about this in the history books. A modern day Princess Diana or John Lennon.
I’ve cried and cried for all those who are deeply affected by this news. I am heartbroken for the Bryant family and I send my deepest love to them and the other families who were also on board.
“It’s the one thing you can control. You are responsible for how people remember you — or don’t. So don’t take it lightly.” — Kobe Bryant
I will love and remember you for always trying to be the best version of yourself.
The strongest thing I can do now is to try to allow Kobe’s legacy to live through me, not just in basketball. His memories can live through all of us.
It’s been 48 hours since I was staring at Kobe and Gigi hoping for this news to not be true, and as I write this piece rooted in love, sadness, and grief — I want to say thank you, Kobe Bryant, for influencing the world in the way you did.
Thank you, Kobe, for your embodiment of basketball, your words of resilience, and your spread of mental grit to everyone you came in contact with.
And yes, you can’t talk about Kobe’s legacy without including his 2003 rape case. Kobe was guilty, and I definitely do not admire or support the gendered violence against women we have in our world. I recognize this truth and those he affected during that time. Everyone has a different shared experience from Kobe, and I wanted to give space to mention this in combination with his legacy.
Empathy Breeds Empathy
I was driven to write this article because I’ve recently been doing a whole lot of self-reflection. Self-reflection about life, my purpose, personal development, and how to achieve my goals. Sometimes, it takes something so unfathomably visceral to take your appreciation for life into hyperdrive.
The idea of feeling other people’s feelings is so powerful. When I imagine Kobe’s history, impact, influence, and legacy — all I can feel is pure gratitude and pure sadness.
I am sad that Kobe is no longer breathing. I am sad that there are families without their loved ones. I am sad that I will never see him play basketball again. I am sad that I will never see him on a talk show. I am sad that I will never see him be a father again. I am sad I will never see him be a husband again. I am sad that I will never hear him motivate and inspire me ever again (only past videos). I am sad Kobe Bryant will never see Kobe Bryant inducted into the Hall of Fame.
I am grateful that he showed me what the birth of a legacy feels like. I am grateful that he is showing me the true aftermath of what legacy is all about. I appreciate my stronger and new-founded motivation to show up as someone leaving people with a reason to be remembered. I am grateful that he is giving people an opportunity to practice more love and kindness. I am grateful that Kobe Bryant never gave up on achieving his dreams and aspirations.
People told me growing up that I didn’t have a place to talk sports because I wasn’t a die-hard fan as they were. I would tell those people to be human and recognize that we all have our own experiences from watching, listening, and interacting with someone or something. You can never take empathy away from someone and their own shared experience. You can’t tell someone how they should feel because feelings must be experienced. And I share the emotions of sadness, gratitude, and love with millions around the world.
Over the next several days, several months, and several years — I want to thank everyone who will bring forth images of Kobe Bryant that instill his values. I want to thank everyone who will post endless social media videos of Kobe Bryant giving us a reason to remember what Kobe stood for. I want to thank everyone who will continue to talk, share, and connect with each other over the profound impact Kobe has on your lives. Because I am ready to listen and watch — letting the hair on my skin rise and tears in my eyes fall.
Thank you, Kobe Bryant, for reminding us how fragile life is. We need more empathy and compassion in our world — because the more we practice love and kindness, the more of there is to go around, not less. By practicing empathy for those who are heartbroken over this news, we can practice more empathy for our loved ones and ourselves.
So tell that person you love; I love you. To the person you want to hug; squeeze them as hard as you can. To those people who influence your life in a positive way; tell them. To your family and friends, remind them why you want them in your life. To the world affected by this news; let’s empathize with each other and all the incredibly hard feelings that come when we lose someone we never thought we could lose.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Life is not black and white. Life is not 1s and 0s. Life is ambiguous. Be patient with your own aspirations and goals. Remember that with more self-compassion, the more we can be at peace with ourselves. Work hard to make decisions that are rooted in your own values — not in the values of others. Recognize that the gift of life is reason to never negotiate your self-worth.
We live once.
Kobe Bryant has given me the opportunity to once again realize that life is a process. A patient one filled with hard conversations. And a happy one filled with joy and gratitude.
Kobe Bryant is the definition of a legend. You can never die.
Thank you 😢❤️