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.

Shattered Dreams: Rick Pitino

rick-pitino-effectively-fired

What does Rick Pitino have in common with Len Bias?  They both broke our hearts.

First, my memory hearkens back to the early to mid ‘80s, when I was a student at the University of Maryland.  I am proud to say that I went to college with Len Bias.  Well, not actually with him, but at the same time. (You know what I mean!)  Anyway, my claim to fame is that while I worked at the Hornbake Undergraduate Library, I waited on Len when he checked out a book. Wow. That’s it. That was the extent of my personal, face to face interaction with this star-crossed athlete who was to one day make millions of dollars playing in the NBA.

But it never was so.

Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose in the spring of 1986 right after he was selected No. 2 overall in the NBA Draft. Talk about a modern day sports tragedy.  The news was devastating.  When I heard the breaking story, I sat at my desk at work and was literally numb.  I was dazed and distraught because Len Bias broke my heart, and the hearts of sports fans everywhere.

Len Bias was supposed to play for the Boston Celtics and break records and fulfill dreams and go down in history as one of the greatest power forwards ever. Instead, his life was an unfulfilled triumph and his death was an unnecessary tragedy.

Talk about a shattered dream. And Len’s life was the life of every University of Maryland sports fan that hoped and dreamed for fame and fortune. By extension, we lived his life.  And we also died his death.

And that’s the calamity and catastrophe of a shattered dream; it eliminates everything we hoped for. It diminishes everything we yearned for. And it devastates everything in us that hungers and thirsts for something higher and better and greater.  Bias went from triumph to tragedy with one bad decision. Consequently, here’s the lesson we need to learn; we need not heap our hopes on anyone or anything other than our Heavenly Father.

We all have a tendency to break hearts and shatter dreams, ours and those close to us and those that count on us. Unintentionally, we all have the propensity to let people down and put people off, and that’s one of the tragedies of sports  . . .  and life too.

Rick Pitino did the same thing. He broke our hearts. And the really bad part of the story is that Pitino is denying any cupability.  So we may never know the truth. That’s why I feel for the fans of the University of Louisville. Pitino’s fall was not just a personal one; it was a very public one. It was shared with and by all who had faith and hope in this man who rose to the heights of the coaching ranks, but unfortunately let his friends and his fans down.  

Let’s not repeat Pitino’s pitfall.  

Dubious Dudes: Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliot Under Investigation

Here is yet another edition of “guys gone wild.”  Ezekiel Elliott, the 2016 Rushing Champion and the Dallas Cowboys rookie sensation, is under investigation by the NFL for “conduct unbecoming.”  Really? I mean, really? Don’t these rich, raucous, unrestricted and unconstrained athletes get it?  Apparently not.

The following is From Jason Keidel, CBS DFW

In perhaps the least surprising news of the summer, there are reports that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott got into an altercation at a Dallas nightclub Sunday night.

This, along with other incidents, both at Ohio State and during his brief career with the Cowboys, keep with Elliott’s Wild West persona. At best, Elliott has an affinity for nightlife and the trappings of fame. At worst, he’s a headache to borderline-felon who can’t keep his hands where they belong.

We already know Elliott was facing discipline from the NFL over domestic violence accusations back in Ohio. Then we have the repugnant video of Elliott lifting a woman’s shirt during St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Now this.

Is Elliott a victim of his own talent and stardom? Or is he inexorably drawn to danger?

Surely Elliott did not need to see his name in bold ink this morning, especially days — if not hours — before the NFL was to rule on his status entering the 2017 season. And while it’s self-evident that the Cowboys don’t want their star RB perilously close to missing games, doesn’t a part of you wonder if Dallas enjoys the attention to a point?

 If Dallas did any due diligence on Elliott before drafting him, they surely knew he was not the strong, silent type. Even if the domestic violence charges didn’t make it to a courtroom, there’s enough behavioral smoke around Elliott to suggest he loves to live on the edge.

 And the Cowboys are renowned for investing in great talents who are also questionable characters. Going back to Hollywood Henderson, the Cowboys have always been equal parts football club and traveling circus. And while it’s silly to assert they condone Henderson stuffing narcotics in his thigh pads, or Elliott perpetrating violence upon a woman, there’s enough history of them rolling the dice on dubious dudes to suggest they at least like the aroma of trouble.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, as the axiom goes. And clearly the Cowboys agree. But what happens if or when Elliott starts to miss games because of his malfeasance? Though we can’t say with certainty, there’s enough of a pattern here to suggest that Elliott will keep pushing the legal envelope until something, or someone, stops him.

At what point is it up to owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett to pull the young man aside and jar some sense into him? By the time a player’s fate hits Roger Goodell’s desk, it’s too late. Football teams love to profess the family ethic, live in the bunker of the locker room, with each man having the other’s back.

To use a military metaphor, where’s the commanding officer? Who’s the captain or major who reels in his wayward troops? Perhaps part of the problem is that the team’s two best players — Elliott and QB Dak Prescott — were rookies last year. If you’re looking for Dez Bryant to lecture the young man on poor aesthetics, well…

The Dallas Cowboys have often lost the line between fun and foible. Part of Jerry Jones’s business genius is seeing his franchise as a hybrid brand of athletics and entertainment. And he also understands our lust for the front and back pages, and thus if he can accommodate both, he will. But it seems his keen handle on human nature doesn’t extend to his own backyard. This is hardly the first time Jones has seen one of his players color outside the lines.

Ezekiel Elliott has the chance to join the orbit of Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith as the preeminent player on perhaps the NFL’s preeminent — or at least most popular — franchise. If his rookie year is any indication, he could even fit himself for one of those mustard-colored jackets they hand out five years after a transcendent career.

But long before he can even think about Canton, Zeke Elliott has to keep himself on the Cowboys, and spend more time on the back page then Page Six.”

 http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2017/07/17/ezekiel-elliott-cowboys-nightclub-fight/

The Tragedy of It All

ray and janay rice

In the long litany of sports disasters, this one is right up there at the top.  Ray Rice is now notorious and nefarious and the video of him brutally punching his then fiancée, now wife, in the face at an Atlantic City Casino elevator will live in infamy.  Talk about a horrible, deplorable disgrace.  The scourge of domestic violence has reared its ugly head in yet another sector of our society, and it appears that there were some that attempted to cover up and pretty up and even dummy up a very gruesome face.

From the top to the bottom, those involved in the Rice “incident” are embroiled and entangled in the middle of a monster of a mess.  The NFL, the prosecutors, and the Baltimore Ravens Organization all are equally culpable. And while no one can pass judgment or throw stones because we all live in glass houses, in this case, broken shards of glass are falling down on a lot of heads even without a single stone being thrown.

Ray Rice and his wife Janay are now the poster children for what domestic violence looks like.  The sad part is that they don’t even know it.  And as we all know, DENIAL is not a river in Egypt.  It’s a terrible thing to have a problem and not know you have it.  Just like the emperor and his new clothes, everyone knew the truth except the one the truth was about.

Our prayer is that Ray and Janay get help.  This is not a condemnation or denunciation of this young couple.  It’s a cold, hard fact that many athletes, both men and women, have “issues” that need to be addressed but are instead swept under the rug in light of their talent. And addressing our issues is not an option; it’s a requirement.  Ray clearly has an issue with reckless and uncontrolled anger.  As for Janay, she is one of 47 million women in America who are victims of “domestic” violence.

Ray and Janay Rice are just like and no different than Esau and Elijah and Moses and Miriam.  These Bible notables had run-ins with rage and fall outs with fury.  Anger is a necessary emotion, but when left unchecked and unbridled, it can lead to this tragedy that is now on trial in the court of public opinion.

So let’s not pass judgment or make fun or even forget about Ray and Janay Rice. Their problems and their plight and their trials and their tribulations are not far from the rest of us.  Because we’re not perfect, everyone struggles with something.  And we all need help with our struggles if we are to conquer the demons that lurk within.  The sad truth is that their faults and their flaws and their failures have been laid bare in a way none of us hope ours will ever be.

We conclude with this note: can good come of this?  While it does not look like it now, we can only hope that some good will come out of this evil event.  And that’s something only God can do.