In Memoriam: Kobe and Gianna Bryant

Last week was a long one, y’all.

I’m not a huge basketball fan, so my introduction to Kobe Bryant wasn’t on the court.  I first heard of him because circa 1996, Kobe asked Brandy (who ruled the black teen world in the mid to late ’90s) to be his prom date, and the media had a field day.

Kobe and Brandy at Prom (Alt)Kobe and Brandy at Prom 2 (Alt)

I didn’t get what the big deal was at first, but I soon learned that Kobe was a high school basketball phenom and a likely NBA draft pick.  I remember seeing him and thinking he was super cute and seemed like a sweet young man.  Plus, he was just a few years older than me, and he was already about to go to the NBA.  I thought that was really cool.

Soon after the famed prom date, Kobe had a guest spot on Brandy’s hit TV show, Moesha (personally, I’ll never forget his guest spot on In the House.  I loved that show, and that ep was one of my favorites!).  I found myself hoping the two of them would end up being an item—after all, they were so cute together—but it never happened.  At the time, Brandy only had eyes for Wanya of Boyz II Men.  As fate would have it, a few years later, Kobe met and married Vanessa Bryant (neé Laine) and had four daughters, including Gianna, who wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and be a basketball player.

Kobe Family Photo (Alt)

Kobe went through some up and downs through the next decade or so:   the back and forth between him and Shaq, the sexual assault case and the issues in his marriage.  Despite all that, his basketball career continued to flourish.  Kobe won five NBA titles and was named MVP in 2009 and 2010, as well as being considered overall MVP in 2008.  He was invited to play in the NBA All-Star Game 11 times and won two gold medals for Team USA at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.  Eventually, all the things in his personal life became better as well.  He and his wife repaired their relationship, his sexual assault case was dismissed, and he and Shaq made amends.

Finally, in 2016, Kobe retired.  I watched his last game, hoping to get a peek of O’Shea Jackson, Jr. sitting courtside (I LOVE that man and he’s the biggest Kobe fan ever).  Even though I didn’t see O’Shea—turns out he was sitting in the box—what I witnessed was a lot more stellar.  Kobe scored 60 points during the game, and led the Lakers to victory that night.  His game was amazing, and I found myself cheering.  Again, I’m not the biggest basketball fan, but that game was spectacular; a perfect finish to a stellar career.  For me, the best part was watching Kobe celebrate his final basketball win with his wife and kids.

A few years later, Kobe embarked on a new project.  It was a short animated film entitled Dear Basketball, which was basically Kobe’s personal love letter to the sport he adored.  Kobe found himself making headlines once again when he won an Oscar for his endeavors.   There were some folks on Twitter that wanted to dump on Kobe’s achievements by bringing up the sexual assault allegations—yes, the same case from 2003—but that still did nothing to ruin the achievement Kobe made.

In the last few years, Kobe coached Gianna aka Gigi’s basketball team and would often be seen with her watching pro games courtside.  It’s been said that Gigi wanted to play for the University of Connecticut when she got older and later for the WNBA.  Her and Kobe’s shared love of the game formed an intense father-daughter bond between them that would never be broken.

Kobe and Gianna 4 (Alt)

Sadly, on the way to Gigi’s basketball game last Sunday afternoon, Kobe and his little girl perished along with 7 other people in a helicopter crash.  When I first heard the news on Twitter, I couldn’t believe it.  Kobe was so young, and had so much life ahead of him.  Then when I learned that poor Gianna was on board and lost her life before even having a chance to really live, it made me even sadder.

Kobe achieved so much in his 41 years, and he lived his life to the fullest.  I’m just so sorry his family has to go through so much hurt and pain of losing a son and a granddaughter, a husband and a daughter…a father and a sister.

I’ve known this for years, but this tragedy really brought it home for me:  never take the people you love for granted.  Tell them you love them.  Spend time with them.  Call them up, or at the very least, send a text.  On top of that, spend each day being the best you you can be and always be appreciative for what you have.  That might sound corny as all hell, but it’s pure truth.

May God bless the Bryant family and all the families that lost their loved ones last Sunday.  🙏🏽

Kobe and Gianna 3 (Alt)

Kobe Bean Bryant:  August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020

Gianna Marie-Onore Bryant:  May 1, 2006 – January 26, 2020

—Written by Nadiya

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