Getting home from school as a kid, I’d race up the stairs into my older sister’s bedroom like there was a pot of purple & gold waiting for me in there. I shared my room with my two brothers and we hadn’t been able to afford to get a TV for our snug barracks yet, so I’d take my chances in my sister’s when she was away.
There was serious risk involved! If she walked in to see me laying in her bed, inhabiting her space, for any reason at all – let alone being happy while doing it..my life would be in great danger.
But it was always worth the risk, you always made it worth the risk.
I knew if I snuck in there, pressed this seemingly magical button which would illuminate a screen, and turned the channel to TNT, I’d get to watch a real-life superhero go to battle for MY city – for ME.
I was always a football kid, never played basketball competitively in my life. Maybe some pick-up or a game of horse or something but in general, just being a 5’9″ Mexican, the cards weren’t in my favor haha.
Yet despite my naive neglect for the game, I understood enough to know that while I lay there, in my older sister’s cover’s, risking life itself, I was bearing witness to something great. Something that I NEEDED to see. Something that I knew I’d never get the chance to see again – that something was you.
We’d be going into a fourth-quarter down by 15 or more and I wouldn’t care. As long as I saw #24 on the court, I always knew we had a chance to turn it around and win.
In writing this, maybe I didn’t realize it so much then as I was always focused on winning the game at hand, but you were actually showing us something much more profound than an activity as simple as basketball – you were showing us that no matter the blows life may deal, we always have a chance to turn it around and win.
And when that moment comes to do so, to win, shot clock winding down, money on the line, we can step back for the three-pointer, fake, fade away, and watch that ball drip in nothing but net.
You never stopped reminding us that it was going to take a lot of hard work to get to have that buzzer-beater moment. In this, you encouraged us to put every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears into our passions in life. You showed us that it was possible to become a better version of ourselves.
Those were the times we had, it was only you and me as I sat there in her room cheering, throwing my hands in the air, and then quickly glancing at the door concerned I had heard the knob twisting – scared she’d catch us in the act.
You were showing me all these things about myself and I didn’t even know it because the jubilation surrounding our relationship was so great.
We never met, but still, you brought joy to my life. You never stepped foot into my sister’s bedroom, but still, you’d fill that room with an electrifying atmosphere. Our relationship was never real, but still, that joy certainly was.
Knowing the source of that radiant childish joy is no longer here for me to glow in is heartbreaking. There’s something missing as I scramble to hang on to whatever bit of your life I can.
You gave us so much – you gave us everything.
Meanwhile, as I do my best to pull myself together for the day, I can’t help but think that there’s a wife laying in her big and empty bed just down the freeway in Newport Beach who’s hoping to God that you might walk through the door like you usually do, and then she could have the relief that this isn’t real life – this hasn’t actually happened.
I can’t help but think of a mother trying to come to grips with the loss of her daughter. I can’t help but think of the unimaginable strength it must take for that mother to then turn to her remaining children, who have instantaneously lost their father and sister, and try her best to let them know it’s gonna be okay.
Being from Orange County, I consider the doors to other homes throughout our community that families will never get to see their loved ones walk through again.
The glass is always half-full for me. There’s always a silver lining. We can always turn it around…remember…that’s what you taught me?
But there’s no turning around from this. We can’t rewind to just a few days ago when everything was alright. And as much as I try to spin an optimistic perspective on what has just happened…as much as I try to find a way to use such raw emotion and apply to my own passions like you would have. I can’t.
This is tragedy. It’s nothing more, nothing less. Just pure tragedy.
Somehow I feel it too, in the same way I’d feel the joy you’d bring to my life as a child. I can feel this.
It sounds so silly feeling this way about somebody I never even knew but it’s true. That just goes to show how much you gave to this world.
When I get to thinking of how much more you had left to give, it only makes things worse. All the happiness and joy all of those people on that helicopter had to give their families along with this world – if not the world, maybe just the beloved Orange County community we all share.
At this point, it’s up to us to make it happen. It’s up to us to learn from this. Maybe this was God’s hand using Kobe once again to teach us one of the most important lessons of all about life – that it ends.
As tough as it may be to conceive, we are going to turn this around and we are going to win. There’s no other option, this is what we must do.
He is some of our fondest memories, he personified the excellence we all strive to achieve, he lives on in our hearts and minds, and in our darkest moments, we’ll still hear his whispers in our ear telling us to push harder.
The greatest story he ever gave us was his own.
When he walked this Earth, Kobe Bryant was a rare human being, but now, he’s a legend.