The lesson of Kobe’s death: Cherish those you love and hug them now

Yesterday the world felt immense pain as NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash. The story was first reported by TMZ. Though reporting was at first confusing, we soon learned that Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his daughter Alyssa and wife Keri were amongst those killed. TMZ also reported that girls basketball coach Christina Mauser was a victim. 

Gianna was set to play a noon tipoff game and Kobe was expected to coach, according to Evelyn Morales, Lady Mavericks team director. 

During all the outpouring of support on Twitter for the Bryant family, users noticed the misreporting of the tragic incident. Then came Yashar Ali’s tweet that provided the concrete news instead of speculation. In this specific tweet, he mentions the misreporting by the on-air ABC News reporter.

It was confirmed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski at 2:51 p.m. 

Woj, as he is commonly known by, is the most trusted reporter in the NBA. While fans were hoping for the best news that hopefully TMZ was wrong, Woj’s reporting confirmed our hopes were unfounded. 

There are more than 50 tweets that could be included in this article to show the reaction of players, coaches and fans. I could include statements made at last night’s Grammys or videos from Dwyane Wade or posts by former teammates Pau Gasol and Shaquille O’Neal, but two videos posted late Sunday evening stood out.  

The coach of the Los Angeles Clippers and former coach of the Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, cried as he tried to put words together. He, like all NBA fans, was heartbroken. 

We see true emotion from him and in this clip from Jay Williams of ESPN, who says every moment is precious and talks about support for Kobe’s surviving family: 

Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young opened the team’s game against the Washington Wizards wearing 8, Kobe’s number before he switched to 24. Having worked with Kobe over the offseason, Young proceeded to score 45 points in a win. In soccer, Paris Saint Germain winger Neymar Jr. also paid tribute, showing the numbers two and four after he scored his second goal in a win versus Ligue 1 team Lille in France. 

Kobe left behind a legacy like no other. There is an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary called, “The House of Steinbrenner.” It talks in detail about how George Steinbrenner built up the New York Yankees to what they are today. Similarly, Kobe built the Staples Center and was the heart of that organization. 

Yes, there was Shaq, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and so many others that made the purple and gold what it is today, but Kobe was the guy. In an age where social media was taking off and playing on a team like the Los Angeles Lakers meant providing success, he did it. Five championship rings, 18 times All-Star, 11 times All-NBA First Team, 9 times All-NBA Defensive First Team, twice NBA scoring champion and the Los Angeles Lakers all-time leading scorer. He is arguably the best player to ever step on a court. He brought the Lakers to a stratosphere no other NBA team has reached. 

The last thing to mention here is the love Kobe had for his daughter Gianna. He thought of her as the next great WNBA star and consistently helped her improve her game. She was a star-in-the-making in his eyes, and he let the whole world know it.

Kobe was a transcendent basketball player, but also a great father to his daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, Capri, who was born last summer, and of course Gianna, who was just 13 years old. He was also a great husband to his wife Vanessa and the two of them helped to fund the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 

I leave you all with this: Just as Williams said on ESPN, family is more important than anything. Make sure to hug those close to you harder, call loved ones you haven’t spoken to in a while and cherish each day you live. Tragedies like these are unpredictable.

Kai’Chien Chisholm is currently studying broadcast media and wants to become sports broadcaster. He currently works for the ProFootballNetwork and is the Podcast Network Director for the site while running his own podcast.