On January 26, 2020, my college men’s ultimate had just wrapped up a weekend tournament. As we were doing recovery stretches after our final game, one of my teammates pulled out his phone, checked ESPN, and delivered some terrible news.
Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash.
He was flying to his daughter Gianna’s basketball tournament when the helicopter encountered thick fog just outside for Los Angeles and the pilot lost control. All other eight victims of the crash, including Gianna, who was only 13, died.
The NBA legend’s death sent the world into mourning. Across the globe, people painted murals and held candlelight vigils for Bryant The Los Angeles Lakers, whom Kobe played for 20 seasons, suspended for games for several days as the organization grappled with the tragic loss.
Bryant ended his career as one of the most accomplished players in NBA history. He won 5 Finals titles, made the All-Star team 17 times, and scored 81 points in one game in 2006, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history.
Yet for all his accolades and incredible talent as an athlete, Kobe was an even more dedicated father.
Bryant had a grueling schedule as an athlete, not just because he was a professional, but because he was one of the most self-motivated and hard-working athletes that American sports have ever seen. Nevertheless, Kobe found a way to balance the rigors of an NBA life with being a normal dad who could pick up his kids from school.
He would take a helicopter from practice in Los Angeles to his home in Orange County so he could fly over the thick L.A. traffic. After practicing, eating, and handling media interviews, Bryant would fly back home and be waiting in the carpool line to grab his daughters. He fully embraced being a “Girl Dad” to four daughters, whom he loved dearly.
“I have road trips and things like that where I don’t see the kids,” Kobe once said. “So every time I get to see them and spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car, I want that.”
That is perhaps what makes Kobe’s death so hard to embrace. The fact that the world lost an influential icon is sad, but a wife lost her husband, three daughters lost their father and a family lost their foundation. That should be enough to move anyone to tears.
Kobe’s love and dedication to his family is what the world will miss the most. The legacy a man leaves on his family is the most crucial one he can have, and Kobe’s legacy is rich and powerful. Father’s everywhere can learn from Kobe’s love and dedication to his family, which transcends any legacy he left on the court.