As the basketball world grieves the loss of all-time great Kobe Bryant, San Antonio Spurs fans need to support themselves and others.
It pains me deeply to have to write this today, on January 26, 2020, at roughly 5:30 P.M. MST. I woke up this Sunday excited to watch San Antonio Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan face off against his friends and former teammates on the Toronto Raptors.
I was proud to share the piece that I published this morning about Lonnie Walker IV, Jakob Poeltl and Derrick White making strides when on the floor together. NBA news is heating up with trade season in full effect and a cutthroat playoff raging with the Spurs claw at the Western Conference playoffs. I love this league and everything that comes with it, but none of that seems important anymore.
As you probably already know it was announced earlier today that NBA legend Kobe Bryant passed away in a devastating helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA. It was later revealed that his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, an upcoming star-in-the-making herself, was amongst the nine people to have died in the accident.
As Spurs fans, we’ve oftentimes rooted against Kobe. Partially because of his unparalleled mental toughness on the court, partially because he was a consistent thorn in the Spurs’ side in their pursuit of many championships during the Big Three Era. This, however, was never without respect for the dedication he showed to his craft, his team, the city of Los Angeles and the game that we all love.
For as much as you may have hated him when he faced your favorite team, no one would deny that Kobe was a model of success. Every day, Kobe pushed himself farther than the last, working to become a well-rounded individual with the mental fortitude to overcome physical and mental exhaustion.
Upon entering the league as a confident, high-flying prospect from Lower Merion High School, Bryant’s potential was largely unscathed. He shot only 41.7% from the field as a rookie and had questionable decision-making skills with the ball in his hands, averaging more turnovers than assists in his first year. And yet he found his way and ended his career with a resume that few individuals could match and a name that carries weight throughout the world.
He had doubters and detractors through every step of the way, and he persevered.
When they said he wasn’t good enough to be in the league, he proved them wrong. When Charlotte traded him away after drafting him in the lottery, he proved them wrong. When people criticized his defense, or passing, or any number of basketball skills, he proved them wrong.
Our own Gregg Popovich described Kobe’s magnificence best a 2017 interview with Broderick Turner of The LA Times:
“Kobe is one of those guys that every coach in the world says, ‘That would have been great to have an opportunity to coach that guy.’ That’s the best thing I can say about him. It says everything,” Popovich said. “[He’s] one of the greatest players of all time. It’s not just his talent or his physical skills.
“His mind was on a par with Michael [Jordan] and Larry [Bird] and Magic [Johnson], guys like that. They thought the game. They knew what was going on. And then on top of that, he had a really phenomenal competitiveness. So it’s not just the talent. It’s the mind and the grit, the guts, the who he is and the way he wanted to compete night after night, which is what made him Kobe Bryant.”
Few people have believed in themselves as much as Kobe did, and now generations of people – not just basketball players, coaches or staff members – have found their way in the world by adopting the Mamba Mentality that Kobe taught them. His name transcends the sport and his message is helping people across the globe to build lives that they love.
As a fanbase, the Spurs are undeniably loyal, passionate, thoughtful and methodical – just as the team, and Popovich, taught them to be. As a matter of fact, the fanbase is more of a family. Now’s the time to exhibit the care and attentiveness that a good family does.
The basketball world is shell shocked, and the Spurs are having an extremely difficult time. Stay patient with your team, and remain understanding as this loss hits home for the organization.
Reach out to your grieving friends. Let a Laker fan in your life know that you’re there for them. Be empathetic for our guys – Tim Duncan, DeMar DeRozan, Becky Hammon, Pop and every individual on this team who Kobe touched in one way or another.
Band together to celebrate the life and legacy of the father, husband, champion, award-winning filmmaker, philanthropist, international icon and genuine man that Kobe Bryant was.
If you’re a Spurs fan, which I assume you are if you read Air Alamo, Kobe had you pulling your hair out at one time or another. Many of you have cursed him, and many of you hated him, but this goes much farther than a fadeaway jump shot, a win or a loss. This is a matter of humanity, and so many people are in deeply-rooted pain right now. We must be sensitive to that.
The Spurs have a family-culture that derives from a prideful city and a group of fans that put their all into this team, but that’s only one subsection of a much larger group: The NBA Family. This game has helped so many of us get through the most trying times of our lives and watching one of the defining ambassadors of our game pass away so tragically and suddenly is going to send ripples throughout the basketball world.
Unite as one entity and we’ll all get through this. Basketball is what brought us all together and it’ll help us carry on with our lives knowing the victims of this incident can’t. Even though it feels like so much more than just a game, basketball is simply that – a game.
Kobe and Gianna are the names that’ll gain all of the traction, but they aren’t the only victims to remember. His wife, Vanessa, is left with three daughters to raise without two integral members of their family. The couple welcomed a baby girl, Capri, into the world seven months ago, and their daughters Natalia (17) and Bianka (3) have to live with the trauma of this disaster.
There were also seven other lives lost that need to be accounted for. Amongst the victims was Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and his daughter Alyssa, according to his former team the Brewster Whitecaps.
Though the rest of the victims have not been released to the public, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that one of Gianna’s teammates and her mother were on board as well. Their families suffer the same loss, grief and anguish of the Bryant family.
I can’t find the right words to finish this piece, so I’m going to let Kobe do it for me. Rest in peace to the nine people who lost their lives today, including one of the greatest competitors this world has ever known.