When news broke about the deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others aboard the helicopter, I was in disbelief.
I’d always thought incredulity at the revelation of tragedy was a hyperbole, I thought people were just emphasizing the significance of the event/loss. On Jan. 26, my ignorance was destroyed as I experienced the phenomenon first-hand.
I spent the weekend in New York City, gladly welcoming the opportunity to wind down before mayhem between school and work would undoubtedly ensue. The itinerary was picturesque and arranged; Broadway show on Saturday, Knicks on Sunday––feasting and shopping along the way.
Saturday came and NYC was as mesmerizing as ever, with billboards simulating 24-hour daylight and shopping centres bustling through the p.m. and early a.m.. The Sunday morning weather was beautiful and the clusters of people lining the streets reflected it.
By nighttime, the billboards once meant to display ads that cost companies more monthly than what I’ll earn in my life were replaced instantly, diehard New York sports fans littered the streets wearing Laker apparel and mimicked the message the billboards held in cold-hard truth.
The advertisements pictured the Los Angeles legend over a bleak background that read: “Kobe Bryant 1978-2020”
I wandered the American streets without phone service when my girlfriend got the news from our friend who replied to a social media post. My friend (someone I would not consider an avid basketball fan) wrote: “We heard Kobe passed, how’s Liam taking it?”
I instinctively gravitated towards the fact that Lebron James had passed Kobe up in all-time points the night prior, but why would my friend care enough to bring that up? I quickly tossed that notion aside.
We momentarily got excited because it meant Kobe Bryant must be in town. My head started to spin, and the itinerary previously set in stone was about to cave in on itself.
It did, but for all the wrong reasons.
When articles were presented, I slated the gaps in knowledge and wanted more evidence. How could Kobe of all people be killed in such a way? I will always mentally scuffle at the thought.
Madison Square Garden, the historic arena garnering the brightest lights was overshadowed by the news that night. The home of the New York Knicks became the home of Kobe’s first NBA points (Nov. 3, 1996), the host of that evening’s game became the host of Kobe’s first All-Star game (Feb. 7, 1998). Spike Lee’s usual courtside antics were unusually minimal, as even the fan-favourite celebrity-cams failed to cheer up the Garden crowd.
And if not for my friend’s unassuming message hours before the game, I might have found out in the arena during the moment of silence. I am forever grateful that notion will remain fiction; she softened the blow for me.
It’ll take weeks before hoop fans can continue talking basketball, and that’s okay. We can never forget such a tragedy, but we must do our best to endure together. On Jan. 30, Vanessa Bryant released her first public statement, in which she perfectly sums up everyone’s sentiments this week.
“I wish they were here with us forever,” she wrote. “They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.”
Feature photo by Liam Sharp