824 Words: Losing an Icon of Our Youth
Right before the New Year, one of my very close friends said “I like when you write, you should definitely write more.” So I promised one article a month in 2020. Technically speaking, it’s not February 1st until I go to sleep and wake back up, be it 2AM or not as I write this. Sorry to say, this one isn’t motorsports related in the slightest.
It’s been a rough week, to say the least. It took me a few days to attempt to organize my thoughts into words, because this topic is my least favorite. My condolences go out to the friends and families of the nine people killed in last Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. While Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna were the two most reported on, the part that chokes me up is the fact that along with Gianna, 13, two of the other victims were her teammates, and just as young.
Something I don’t often speak on is losing friends at a young age. Unfortunately, it’s something I’m far too familiar with, and could certainly be considered an expert on - a title I do not want. The fact of the matter is, between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one, I lost nine friends to various causes, eight of which were sudden. Those are text messages or phone calls that make time stand still, freeze you where you stand, numb, while everything starts to spin around you. It’s a disgusting feeling trying to sort out all of the questions in your head that you’re left with. Having been there multiple times, I feel for the surviving teammates of Gianna, Alyssa, and Payton - and I absolutely hate that for them.
This is only the second celebrity that I can remember feeling actual sadness for their passing. The first: Mac Miller. These two losses hold very similar emotions for one reason I can think of: they were both icons of our youth. We grew up watching the NBA, playing the video games, much like later, in our teen years we listened to Mac Miller, met lifelong friends at the parties the music was played at, and genuinely bonded over the common interest with people who otherwise would’ve just been strangers.
That being said, I’m not afraid to admit that growing up in a football town, I was never huge into basketball, personally. I played for only one year, but would occasionally watch NBA games. I remember the tail end of Michael Jordan’s career, I remember LeBron coming up in the early 2000’s, but most prevalent in my mind was the duo in LA, rocking the Staples Center, or ‘The House that Kobe and Shaq Built’ rather.
Being from a small town, and that Kobe Bryant grew up about an hour away, it wasn’t rare to go out and see someone wearing a #8 Lakers Jersey, and then later #24. I didn’t really pay much attention to him until later in his career, but I knew he was cold. The image stuck in my mind is of an opposing player checking the ball in and he fakes in right into Kobe’s face and the man never even thought about flinching. Cold. There’s a reason he’s been spoken of so much this week, and it’s all about the legacy he built and left behind. Kobe will live on forever, because legends never die.
I remember the free throws with the torn Achilles, I remember the Olympics, and I’ll never forget the “Mamba, out” mic drop after he put up 60 in his last game. I think the most important thing I’ll remember is the work ethic: The ‘Mamba Mentality.’ It speaks to me because there’s not much more that I do. Some days I feel like I live to work, but not in a bad way. I feel the need to keep moving and pushing for more or better because of how easily I grow tired of the same old shit. Nothing changes if nothing changes, and it sure as hell won’t come without putting in the work.
If we can take anything positive from the loss of not only someone who influenced so many young lives, but the loss of many, including three young lives, do not hold on to anything negative. Life is far too short to hold grudges and be miserable. If you haven’t heard from someone in a while, reach out. Life is weird, one day we’re here and the next we may not be, so it’s not to be taken for granted. I hope that you find a way to inspire courage in someone, or in many people, because what we do while we’re here is outweighed tenfold by the legacy that we leave behind.
If you wish to donate to help the families of the seven other victims of the accident, there has been a fund set up to do so at mambaonthree.org