Dear Kobe and Gigi,
I don’t even know where to begin….so I’m just going to begin…..
When I heard the news, I was at – of all places – a basketball game. My text response back to my friend who told me was….”please God no”. We’re all torn apart not just because you left us, but also the WAY you left us. Someone who has been a bright shining star isn’t supposed to leave us in that tragic way.
I never got to meet you, but I got to know you through players I’ve coached who played in the NBA. They told me stories about you. Of all the stories I heard, the one below is a story I tell others….and always will.
“The OKC Thunder players were in Staples Center lifting weights on a off day. They’d had a game the night before and so did the Lakers. OKC and the Lakers were to play the next day. One of the OKC players heard the clock horn going off every couple of minutes for almost an hour. He propped the door open and saw you on the court, fully drenched in sweat. You had 4 different baskets set up, a rebounder at each hoop. You had timed shooting drills set up at each basket – all types of shots you took in games. Going full blast. When one rebounder threw a soft pass, you simply clapped and told him, “Zip it to me a little harder next time, ok?” – didn’t crush him – just reminded him that there’s only one way to do things…the best way.” All of this….on a day off. Part of what made you great isn’t just what you did when everyone was watching – it’s what you did when NO ONE was watching. I’m glad one OKC player watched that day.
June, 14, 2009. I was in Orlando to see Game 5 of the Finals. My first NBA Finals ever. You scored 30 and the Lakers beat the Magic to win the NBA Title. I could see your face from the stands. Pure joy. I left the arena feeling a little lighter, lifted a little higher, by what I’d just witnessed.
The picture on this post sums it up for me. You played and spent your retirement lifting others a little higher, starting with Gigi and your girls. You brought the Mamba mentality right off the floor and into fatherhood, into coaching Gigi, into advocating for the WNBA, and all the way to the stage to win an Oscar Award. As Doc Rivers said recently, “We will all need the Mamba mentality to get through this”….truer words have never been spoken.
Thank you Gigi….thank you for your courage. First, the courage to jump in and play the game played by your famous father. Many kids for good reasons would shy away from that. That took courage. Also, thank you for showing other young girls that just “hanging out” with your Dad is a beautiful thing. Seeing you and Kobe at games with huge smiles on your faces is something I’ll always remember. In your own way, you’re a bright shining star as well.
So thank you once more. I hope the “experts” who have never touched a ball ease back with the “Who’s the Greatest” debates for awhile. I look up in the sky and admire brilliant stars for their own beauty. You should be honored for that as well, and you will be. Not only did you shine like a brilliant star…..you lifted the rest of us a little higher so we could enjoy the view with you.
We Love You,