THE UNIVERSE will put your jersey in the rafters. I want to write this with as much care as possible, because I am writing with a heavy heart.

Due to circumstances off the court of play the basketball and sports universe has a black hole in it.

Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and multiple other souls unfortunately passed away while taking a helicopter on the way to poetically enough a basketball game. The death came on Sunday January 26th and the entire world instantly felt it. It’s one of those moments that you will remember where you were when you heard the news. A figure of this magnitude passing in such a way is inescapable to hear about all around you. You could be obsessed with basketball, a casual fan or be a complete novice to everything about the sport, but you still know Kobe Bryant. He was bigger than basketball, he represented so much more to so many more. That’s how legends work. They master their field in such a way that the status they have reaches beyond that. Men and women can become giants by being truly great.

Kobe had an aura about him. He was the star that the stars came to see. They would sit front row of the Lakers game to witness the greatest Laker ever masterfully operate in his realm of craft. You could love or hate the Lakers as a fan. You could love and hate Kobe as a fan. You could debate how he played the game on the hardwood or about how he moved and handled things off the court. You could as I have with my close friends argue where he stands in the GOAT conversation.

He was a complicated figure.

What you could never do is deny what he meant to the sport of basketball. Where he stood on the totem pole of sports in this millennium. He will forever be in the conversation.

The discussion around him was ever growing and changing. Kobe Bryant was entering a new prime. Not his athletic prime in which he earned 5 NBA championships and garnered numerous accolades during his illustrious career. This prime was something else.

To be as great as he was at basketball. To be that assassin on the court took a different kind of focus. A focus he would later go on to properly name Mamba Mentality.

When he retired that focused shifted. Kobe is one of the greatest basketball players and athletes period to ever compete in sport. Losing that desire to compete in that arena or transition to life after basketball always seems to be hard, especially when you are that caliber of player.

He played this game at the top level, giving his all professionally, physically and mentally for 20 years. So what do you do without the practice, the focus on championships, the arena full of people screaming your name? A lot of top tier athletes rightfully so, become lost. They have to find a whole new identity outside of this thing they’ve been known for their whole life. Kobe handled that transition with such royal grace. I always respected his skills and how dangerous he was on the basketball court. I began to appreciate the man off the court once he retired. For the first time ever it seemed he wasn’t always on the defense and could let down his guard. Once outside the NBA as a player he wasn’t as much of an outsider.

He had always been a worldly and cultured man. Living internationally for a good portion of his childhood and speaking multiple languages. Once he decided to let the game of basketball go. He was still a big a figure as anyone who ever played the game, but his focus shifted. A businessman that was a force to be reckon with in the boardroom was born. He tapped into his creative side with his production company that won an academy award for a short film last year. He wrote children books, invested in start ups that he believed in and became a mentor to a generation of current NBA players who grew up with him as their favorite player and idol. Bryant leaned fully in on being a father. What he would call his greatest accomplishment, raising his 4 daughters with his wife Vanessa. He started going to NBA games again as a way to bond with his daughter Gigi who was becoming as avid about being a great player as he was early on.

Death happens and it will continue to happen. Ever since there was life there has been death. It’s a sometimes tragic balance. Sometimes death feels like it attacks us. Sometimes we are devastated by a persons death because of the way they lived there life. What they did with the years they were fortunate enough to live. The breaths they took before they passed took our breath away when they passed. Kobe Bryant was the type of person when he laced up his sneakers on a basketball court he demanded a double team. When he walked into a room he demanded attention. When he traveled with his family to his daughters volleyball or basketball tournaments everyone in that town knew. And when he died it seemed as if the world stopped. That if even for 24 seconds as you realized the gravity of it all everything felt silent.

I woke up from a nap and millions of people across the world lost their idol. I wanted to go back to sleep in hopes that it wasn’t real. Not just for Kobe Bryant but everyone on that helicopter and everyone that is left behind grieving and eventually having to be strong and carry on. I’ll never forget going on social media to the search bar typing in the name “Kobe” and hoping that the internet just took a joke too far again. Hoping we didn’t have to put a crown on the gravestone of another king gone too soon.

The city of Los Angeles lost another titan this year. A man who was supposed to give his Hall of Fame speech this Summer will now forever be etched in the annals of sports allure of those never forgotten. He would’ve already been there but this being the ending to him in the physical is not what anyone expected. Kobe Bryant received a tremendous amount of flowers while he was here. He knew what he meant to those he loved and those who loved him but he never knew. Still it feels he had more to give us. He undoubtedly had a statue coming outside of Staples center. Which will probably cause many to have the same flow of tears that they experienced today. His 30 for 30 was probably already in production, but this is not the editing point any of us wanted. He had so many more memories to make with his family and watching them grow. He made such a global impact on sports when he played. He was continuing to change the world for the better in his sports retirement.

Life is so fast and confusing. We don’t go though it with an instruction manual. We wake up everyday with a routine but we are all still trying desperately to figure it out. A lot of times the only thing that makes it worth living is love. Love comes in many forms and most of us don’t say it enough. We get caught up in all these things that in the end doesn’t matter. All these things that we think we have years to get right or make better. There was so much life altering things that occurred on that helicopter ride. The families directly affected who lost fathers, brothers, sisters moms, daughters etc. I bet all that got on it had the thought it would be a routine trip. The same way I took a casual Sunday nap and didn’t realize how much areas of the world would change. People die everyday, but someone who was in the public light for over 20 years and helped shaped so much of your life experience, you are allowed to mourn. Everyone who lost someone on that helicopter deserves our deepest condolences and immense time to grieve what can only be described as tragedy.

Death doesn’t come with invitations, it’s the ultimate crasher of the party. That’s why Kobe having the Mamba Mentality was beautiful. He is gone far too soon, but he was truly the epitome of great while he was with us.

I mean this with the upmost respect; Kobe “Bean” Bryant was the king of snakes. A generational talent that still worked harder than everyone else. Kobe played the role of villain for me during the majority of his career. I was a kid that grew up on the Midwest and Eastcoast. He was the brass, no personality guy who never passed the ball, hit so many heartbreaking shots and stopped people from passing the torch to Lebron. I enjoyed not rooting for him. Still in every argument I ever had it came with a level but the guy is a top 5 player to ever lace them up. He was the type of player that made you feel something. Doesn’t matter if you argued for or against him, he was a topic in the conversation. Legends of his colossal magnitude are never truly gone because their names will always be spoken by the old who remember and the young who want to learn.

Same beast, different animal.

Let his passing be another motivator to achieve all you can everyday, let his death that came far too soon be an excuse to say “ I love you” way more often. At least wake up and know that you can have a powerful and positive affect on others. As the ultimate tribute to the greatest Laker of all time, but more importantly a good family man and human. Take a piece of paper ball it up and when you shoot it in the trash can say with the upmost confidence “KOBE!”

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