Kobe Bryant: Too Soon To Die, Too Late To Say Goodbye  

kobe-bryant-and Gianna
Kobe Bryant and His Daughter, Gianna Maria Onore, 13, were both Killed in a Helicopter Crash on Sunday,January 26, 2020.

Not many people demand attention. Kobe Bryant did.  And now he’s gone. Today, President Trump tweeted about Kobe’s death … saying, “Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news! “

 Yes it is.

Kobe Bryant’s untimely death hurts just as much if not more than Whitney’s in February of 2012 or Michael’s in June of 2009. Of all the unexpected and sudden, unforeseen deaths in recent memory, this one really hurts.

Tragic accidents are brutal.  Tragic accidents are unforgiving. And tragic accidents like Kobe’s are humanly impossible to deal with. They rip your guts out, punch you in the throat, put you in a choke hold and then stand over you and demand that you sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs with a smile on your face.  After a loss like this, there is no earthly way to recover or salvage our sense of sensibility other than to look to heaven for repose.

Kobe was LA, and Kobe was the Lakers. He was admired and loved or just respected or downright hated by everybody. Everybody had an opinion about him, because his life on and off of the court demanded attention.

Kobe was one of the great, greats, not only in the NBA, but in sports history. He is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and will go down as one the NBA’s most revered scorers and defenders. Kobe’s resume is full of an embarrassment of riches. He made 18 All-Star teams during his 20 year career with the Lakers. He was a first-round pick in the 1996 draft, winning 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPs and he was the league MVP in 2008. He was on 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams and led the league in scoring for two seasons. He ranks fourth in the NBA for all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring. Kobe also repped USA in a number of Olympic appearances.

Within the storied Lakers franchise, he is listed with a long list of the greatest that ever played the game. The Lakers have won so many games and so many championships. From Jerry West to Wilt Chamberlain, to Kareem Abdul-Jabar to Earvin “ Magic” Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal and now LeBron “King” James. Over the years, the Lakers organization learned how to do one thing, and that is make it to the NBA Finals, and then win championships. And Kobe was a champion who won and lived like one.

And so we weep with them that weep and mourn with them that mourn and pray for Kobe’s wife Vanessa and the entire Bryant family. 

Unfortunately, this sad story got even sadder when it was learned that Kobe’s daughter Gianna Maria Onore — aka GiGi — was also on board the helicopter and died in the crash … She was only 13. We’re told they were on their way to the Mamba Academy for a basketball practice when the crash occurred. The Academy is in nearby Thousand Oaks.

Kobe is survived by his wife Vanessa. Together, they had four daughters — Gianna, Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri. Kobe and Vanessa got married in 2001 after meeting in 1999.  He was only 41,  and he played 20 of those years with one team, one basketball family, the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe is also “survived” by many Lakers who already miss his presence on court, and now will miss him in their lives.

In Kobe’s 41 years, he was much more than a legendary basketball player. He was a husband, father, friend and mentor to so many who still play in the “Association,” aka, the NBA. His iconic impact on the sport and his indelible imprint on the lives of athletes worldwide may never be fully known.

Kobe Bryant; too soon to die, too late to say goodbye.

 Farewell, Kobe.

Rescue Dawn: Curing “The Disease of Me”

Rescue Dawn

Rescue Dawn is code. Overcoming adversity after being captured is something almost none of us will ever have to experience. But it is the dawn of rescue that all of us need to see as we seek to crack the code and overcome “The disease of me.”

In one of the better Viet Nam War movies I’ve seen, the 2006 film Rescue Dawn staring Christian Bale, in its own way, speaks of this disease of me. It’s very good. IMDB says the film depicts “a US Fighter pilot’s epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission over Laos during the Vietnam War.” Shot down on his first mission, Dieter Dengler, played by Bale, was shot down and captured by villagers sympathetic to the Pathet Lao during an American military campaign in the Vietnam War.

Dieter survives torture and torment at the hands of his captures and overcomes, to mix sports and war, “the disease of me.” Sports are often portrayed as “battles” and “wars.” We commend and commemorate sports veterans this Memorial Day, not to belittle or belie our veterans whom we honor today. War veterans won and overcome adversity because they did not succumb to the disease of me.

Pat Riley coined the term “The disease of me” in order to encourage his player to be sacrificial and discourage them from being selfish. In order to win, teams must work as a unified unit, as a well oiled, well maintained machine, not as a collection of individuals. Why? Because the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Pat Riley, the famed coach of the “Showtime Lakers” and now the General Manager of the Miami Heat, hopes to accomplish a “Three Peat;” a term he coined and copy writ but a feat he has yet achieve.

In order to win, teammates must lose themselves in the team. When you lose your individual identity, your team gains a corporate identity. You find yourself in among the individuals that you play with when you are not afraid to deny and disavow yourself. In order for our Maker to allow and avail and authorize our individual talent, it must be consumed and subsumed within the team. In other words, if you lose your life you will find it, and if you find your life you will lose it. Pat Riley called it “The Disease of Me;” and the disease of me equals the defeat of us.

In order to triumph, the church just be healed of the disease of me. Selfishness, self-interest and self-centeredness are friends of egoism and egotism, and are the enemies of victory and triumph.

The Church will NEVER truly triumph until we are each cured of the disease of me. So think of someone else; focus on a coworker; be happy for someone else’s success; save your brother. And remember the six danger signals of the disease of me, and take the pill self-sacrifice:

The Disease of Me