Why Cry Over Kobe?

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The Black Mamba is gone. Basketball has lost one of it’s most certified superstars. Too soon at that. Hey, he hasn’t even had the chance to wait for his Hall of Fame induction and acceptance ceremony. Shaquille O’Neal said it straight. They will “never have a chance to rib each other about Kobe winning five and him only four, and that if they stayed together, they might have won ten.”

Well, normally when a celebrity dies, you’re curious and sad, in a way, specially if you’re a fan, but you never really empathize with what happened to them and what the people closest to them feel. There is no gut wrench.

Why? Because they’re not your family. They’re not your friends. There is no personal connection. You feel sadness and loss, but you don’t really feel the pain. I mean, the guy’s a multi millionaire athlete, a superstar on the global stage. Are we? Really nothing to emphatize with on a personal emotional level is there?

Then you hear the next part. Other people on that helicopter crash died with him. Initially rumored was another former Laker of an earlier era, Rick Fox, but that turned to be a dud. Still same effect.

Finally, a more accurate report. His13 year old daughter Gianna, her teammate and her parents, a Filipino American coach, another mother and daughter, and of course, the pilot, also perished in the mishap.

Whoa!!!!!! That hit hard. On all of us. Our family affiliations suddenly coming to fore. Hey, this is too close to home!!!! This could happen to me and my family. Anytime.

And now you detail the events and facts. It’s no longer a celebrity story. It’s a family story. It’s a tragic family story. And it’s very Filipino-esque.

The 13 year old daughter’s death in itself, turns your intestines inside out. A lot of promise gone up in, pardon the pun, smoke. Then you hear about her teammate being there. But wait. Her PARENTS were also there. So was a wife and mother. Another mother and daughter. And the pilot. He was a family to someone wasn’t he?

Hearing more of the story, we now find out that Kobe and Gigi heard mass at 7:00 am, then called the other members of their posse, to go their kids’ basketball game.

Son of a….. that’s US. At one point or another in our family lives, we did this, or are still doing it, for some of you. Sure we don’t take a helicopter to the venue, but this could have easily been a car crash story, with the same result. And, that’s US!!!!!!

Suddenly, Kobe is no longer the 20 year NBA superstar. He was Dad. Brother. Mentor. Coach. He was one of US. And his family and friends suddenly lost them. And it felt like we lost a dad, brother, sister, mom, aunt, and uncle. We felt the loss.

You suddenly realized that being a 20 year NBA superstar is really a sacrifice.

The trappings of a superstar almost cost him his liberty (rape case), his multi million dollar endorsements ( Adidas for one), and his marriage. Also, being a “regular” dad just wasn’t an option during his playing years. And his legendary work ethic and constant travels was just what it was. Little time for the family.

But one thing saved Kobe and this was his personal account. Kobe was Catholic. Remember that he grew up in Italy.

So he went to a Catholic priest for marital and family advice, who told him to let it be, you can’t control what has been done, but probably and cryptically meant “hey, you broke it, you fix it…but trust and ask for God’s guidance.”

So he turned to his faith and decided to fix his life according to Catholic values and teachings. All the more, this is turning into a Filipino family story isn’t it? Very soap opera like even. And Kobe, unlike all the NBA superstars who have come and gone, visited us six times!!!!! He was practically an adopted son of the Philippines.

Hey, he might’ve turned Filipino for all we know. Heck, he almost became a La Sallian!!!!!! No joke.

And because of this, the self centered, egotistical, high achiever, got rid of his “self”, his “id”, started to think “team” and switched teams in the end. From Team Lakers to Team Vanessa and Daughters.

After his retirement, he rarely watched NBA games and concentrated on raising his family as Dad. Made up for lost time, if you will.

He was still young enough. His daughters were still young. He had a months old child. There was still time. Plenty of it.

As it turned out, one of his children, Gianna, shared his same interest. One could just imagine how happy he was. He built the Mamba center for her and her team to train in. He purchased a helicopter so as not to be late for her training and games. And he trained her himself. So happy. And fulfilled.

Well events happened and there was little time as it turned out. And the hard realization was if this could happen to Kobe, what more to us? After all, a car crash is much more common that a helicopter crash.

So this is a story of a man who worked hard, succeeded, went out of control for a while, repented, prayed out his problems, focused on work and family, retired from work and centered on what was left. Family.

Guys, this is a Filipino story. Better yet, this is a global story. And best of all, this is a story of faith.

Frankly I wasn’t a fan of Kobe Number 8. He was an achiever but he was self centered. I was a Larry Bird, Chief Parrish, Kevin McHale type. Hard working lunch bucket types who went home and mowed the lawn during weekends. Plus even then, I loved the green and white.

I respected the Kobe Number 24 more because you could see the transition from Number 8. After the Shaq break-up, he became alpha dog of his team. He began to show leadership. He began to teach. To lift up teammates. And yes. To still dominate. Hell he was still Kobe.

Well I believe all of them are Heaven bound now. When they died, they were doing things for each other. As parents supporting, teaching their children. Helping them fulfill their dreams. A happy picture. A happy story.

But of course there is another side of the story here. One of tragedy. Grief. Picking up the pieces. Missing your loved ones. Wife Vanessa and her remaining kids. Joe Bryant and his family. Husband and children. Father.

It’s a story of the Catholic faith. It’s like a La Sallian story. It’s a Filipino story. It’s a Universal story. A painful one. But one everyone will have to go through.

And that’s why we cry for Kobe. Kobe is us.