More than an athlete, and that’s why it hurts so much

Kobe Bryant looks on during his last game as a Los Angeles Laker at Staples Center. (Photo by: Getty Images)

How did you find out?

For myself, it was a message from my sister, I had just woken up and was half asleep when reading it.

She had sent me Kobe Bryant’s last Instagram post and had told me what had happened, in summary, that Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others had died in a helicopter crash.

It was one of those things that you look at but can’t take straight on face value as you’re like no, this can’t be true, because this just doesn’t happen to people like Kobe.

You are hoping it’s not real before realizing that it is – every social media platform I check is flooded by messages about Kobe Bryant, and his beloved daughter Gianna.

It’s almost unfathomable to process, how can Kobe have died? I mean, it’s Kobe Bryant, he’s not meant to die.

Far out, he only posted on social media hours earlier; it’s just a feeling of complete utter disbelief.

That’s what it feels like, and how it feels when any person who has touched the lives of others is no longer with us following a tragedy such as this.

We watch these people and we label them as heroes, whether they are an athlete, a singer, an actor or something else, and we kind of put them on a pedestal.

There’s an air of invincibility about them, we live our dreams through them and gain inspiration from their highs and their lows.

We watch them grow and it inspires us to grow; they make us want to get better and show us that it’s possible – and that’s exactly what Kobe did.

This is why something like this has such a profound impact on people that didn’t even know Kobe or his daughter personally.

Gianna or “Gigi”, is someone well-known amongst basketball fans, and she was following in her father’s footsteps, a passionate basketballer and prominent fixture next to her dad at Lakers’ home games.

She like so many others idolized her father and he idolized her too.

The idol that Kobe is to many around the world is now really being laid bare for everyone to see.

This afterall, is bigger than basketball and it’s being felt everywhere, the love for Kobe really is as enduring as it is diverse.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re ten years-old and your first impression of Kobe Bryant is through video highlights on somewhere like YouTube, or whether you were old enough to watch his career grow and conclude, in jaw-dropping fashion with 60-points against the Utah Jazz – as only Kobe could.

He impacted and inspired generations, from LeBron James to the kid one-hundred metres down the road.

Heck, he was the reason 76ers superstar Joel Embiid took up the sport after watching him play in the 2008 NBA Finals, crazy.

Kobe really did influence the life of others that looked up to him, a lot of players in the league now wouldn’t be playing NBA if it wasn’t for the impact Kobe Bryant had – that’s pretty amazing in itself.

You don’t even need to say his surname, everyone knows who Kobe is, he’s part of a one name status.

Kids that don’t follow basketball yell “Kobe!” when throwing a paper ball into a trash can in class.

That’s how recognised he is, people think Kobe when they think basketball.

My introduction to NBA basketball came roughly around the time of Kobe’s retirement.

I heard about the love for him through others at school and even if they weren’t a big Kobe fan, you always heard about his greatness.

Of course I would eventually settle on the Boston Celtics as my NBA team, and of course in the years to come I would learn more and more about Kobe’s mastery against us.

I feel cheated by myself, that I never grew up watching him, but I appreciate that my generation was inspired so heavily by him.

It’s a devastating thing that has happened and this as a whole is a family tragedy of great magnitude.

Kobe and Gianna afterall, were only two of the nine people killed in that helicopter crash in California.

John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan were the other seven people that were in the helicopter with Kobe and his daughter when disaster struck.

Which leaves five broken families that will never truly recover from the losses they have been dealt.

It breaks your heart, and the pain that those remaining family members are going through right now is absolutely devastating to try and comprehend.

Kobe Bryant inspired a generation and will continue to do so through the legacy he has left.

Rest In Peace to everyone involved in this tragedy.

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