And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.
Herman Melville – Moby Dick
The death of Kobe Bryant is one of those tumultuous events that people will always remember where they were when they heard the news. I started that previous sentence with the idea that I’d be writing “basketball fans will remember where they were”, but quickly realized that it would be doing a disservice to the legacy that Bryant has left in popular imagination.
It’s tough to put into words the emotions that come with anyone passing, but it seems doubly so for someone the stature of Kobe. It can feel self-indulgent to focus on your own feelings, when there are family members and loved ones who will be missing their father, their friend, their husband.
Kobe Bryant was one of the fiercest competitors to ever step onto a basketball court and one of basketball’s all time greatest performers. But he was also more than this. To anyone who followed his career, to anyone who followed the NBA or international basketball during the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, hearing of the tragic news of Bryant’s passing will feel like they’ve lost a part of themselves.
A complex personality, an unbelievable talent and a work ethic that became equal parts folklore and reality. The incredible dynamic about Kobe stories was that whatever you heard about his workouts and his drive to win championships, however insane, you could never fully rule them out as not being true. That’s the kind of drive he possessed, and that’s how he was able to become more than just a player.
Kobe Bryant could take on whatever meaning you wanted to place on him. Bryant was basketball’s white whale for two different generations of basketball fans. Like Moby Dick, Bryant’s symbolism was enigmatic, a provocative challenge to the reader. Perhaps even a mirror back at them. However you chose to read Bryant, however you chose to publicly speak about and align yourself in regards to Kobe, that said something about you as a basketball fan and as a person.
Basketball is a passion for some and an escape for others. Whatever you wanted to take from the sport, Kobe could be the hero or he could be the villain. But you were never leaving without what you wanted for your own life.
Kobe’s passing will feel very personal to a lot of people for these very reasons. Perhaps we should best remember him as he would have wanted for himself. A winner. A father. A husband. A creative force and a man who touched the lives of people all around the world.
Thank you Kobe.