When Someone Famous Dies

Posted by David Okun on January 27, 2020

Everyone’s got a take on Kobe. Here’s mine.

I always was, and likely always be, terrible at basketball. I grew up in Houston, Texas idolizing Hakeem Olajuwon and watching him win in 1994 and 1995 the first two years I ever watched Basketball. Then Michael Jordan came back, ripped off three straight, and made me feel human as a sports fan.

I remember watching Kobe, and then I remember the first time I remembered Kobe.

I remember listening to the news on the radio with my mom as she was driving me to school in 7th grade. Kobe was apologizing for his extra-marital sexual encounter. I remember watching the video later, but I remember him speaking everything he said in that moment.

I remember him saying how, even though he thought it was consensual, he knew it wasn’t perceived that way, and that he was truly sorry.

I remember seeing the video later. I remember him sitting there with nothing hiding him, owning up to his grave mistake, next to his wife, and taking responsibility for what he did.

I think Kobe knew he was an entertainer in that moment, but I think he also knew he was going to be a role model, whether he wanted that responsibility or not. I’d like to think he knew how the world would be watching. I’m 8 years younger than Kobe Bryant, and I was in 7th grade, so as old as I am now, I think that’s a striking amount of maturity in the wake of arguable immaturity.

In the #MeToo era, I always think of how Kobe Bryant eventually owned up to his mistakes whenever someone is in the news over sexual assault allegations. I wish no one would commit such a crime, but I also wish more people had the sense to try to rehabilitate themselves the way Kobe did.

It’s overtime against the Suns in the playoffs. He gets the tip, dribbles past the key. 1 second to go. He throws it up over two defenders. There’s just no way it’s going in…then you remember who shot it.

“Bang!” -Mike Breen

You’ve seen it, and I won’t share the video here on purpose. Dote on your own memory or make it up as you go - the only person in the stadium that knew with titanium certainty that it was a bucket was Kobe, and when it went in, the stadium erupted.

You’ve seen it. One fist cocked at eye-level, moving along the sideline. That knowing look - he knew it was going in. It must have been amazing to have been a teammate of his, and I mean that with zero percent irony (Kobe Bryant has a career average of 4.7 assists per game.)

As I continue to grow up and work in my career where I sit in front of computers and ask them to do what I want them to do, I am still learning about leadership skills and what it takes to form a successful team. I often think about how I would never and have never asked a single person to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. I always think of how Kobe Bryant played basketball when I think of that sentiment talking to my team.

When the news spread, I knew he had a family, and one comprised almost exclusively of daughters. News spreads differently in 2020, and one of the videos that made me cry real tears was a video of Kobe Bryant on Jimmy Kimmel. He was talking about his oldest daughter, Gianna.

He was talking about how so many people came up to him and told him how he and his wife, Vanessa, needed to have a boy to carry on his legacy. He told Jimmy how his daughter, Gianna, would speak up and say “Hey dad, I got this.”

Think for a moment about the kind of father who raises a daughter to be confident enough to carry on the sports legacy of one of the greatest people to ever play basketball. Think about the lack of a precedent for her to play in the same league as him. Then mourn the passing of that daughter with her beloved father in the same tragedy. Rest in power, Gianna.

I love my dad very much, and I think I have a pretty good relationship with him. My dad has influenced me to be who I am in many ways, and I can only hope that he’s as proud of me as Kobe was of Gianna, even if I only have one video to go off of.

I always was, and likely always be, terrible at basketball. I really only play to break a sweat, and I’m so awful that I am constantly scared that other people in the L.A. Fitness I go to will want me to play a game with them. I only ever really play when no one else is in that gym, or if I can ever practice meaningless layups and shots.

Dave Chappelle coined the term “Kobe!” in one of his iconic skits from his show in 2003, and I can’t tell you how many people have made baffling shots over me and just yelled the same thing as they’ve gone in. I hope I can take myself less seriously moving forward and start yelling the same thing, too.