As you probably already know, former LA Lakers great Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash today, along with his 13-year-old daughter and eight others.
Bryant’s passing caused an outpouring of grief across the basketball world, the sports world, and beyond. At the start of a game between the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors today, both teams held the ball until the 24-second shot clock ran out; Bryant wore number 24 with the Lakers.
For some, the outpouring of grief wasn’t necessarily appropriate. Other people died on the helicopter. For instance, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, and daughter died. Except, if you look up Altobelli’s bio on the college website, it lists two daughters. While Bryant’s wife Vanessa lost a husband and a daughter, this girl lost her entire family.
In Newburgh, NY, a man, woman, and ten-year-old boy were killed in a home this weekend. A three-year-old survived and is in serious condition.
Not so long ago, a boat fire in Los Angeles killed 34. In October 2018, 20 people, many from the same family, died in a limo crash in upstate New York.
No one rushed to a sports arena to form a makeshift shrine. No one used most of the first minute of an NBA game as a public display of grief. There wasn’t a domination of social media.
While some would point this out as a failure of American culture, that’s not fair. For whatever reason, famous people sometimes capture our imagination. They bring joy or inspiration into our lives. Their deaths shock us as if we knew them.
Think back, if you’re old enough, to remember Roberto Clemente passing. Or Elvis. Or Thurman Munson. John Lennon. Dale Ernhardt. Pat Tillman. Anthony Bourdain. And now Kobe Bryant.
Maybe none of these people resonated with you. That’s okay.
But it doesn’t make the pain people felt any less appropriate. That pain is about human connection–a form of love.
And those are things we need more of, not less of.
I don’t know Kobe Bryant from Adam. As a Celtics fan for the 25 years or so I cared about the NBA, I’m required to sports-hate the Lakers and everything about them. Then again, my sports-hate of the Yankees couldn’t prevent me from feeling Thurman Munson’s death.
It wasn’t that I knew him or was inspired by him. I just knew a lot of people who were hurt–and maybe I was hurt for them as much as for Munson and his family. It’s sort of like the way I hurt for a close friend recently, when someone close to her died.
Seems okay to me.