It was just two weeks ago that I was writing about the loss of drum legend, Neil Peart, from the rock band Rush. This morning, the news has spread rapidly since yesterday afternoon about the loss of Kobe Bryant, basketball legend.
Unlike Peart, Bryant’s reputation was far more widespread. It wasn’t limited to fans of the Lakers or even fans of the sport of basketball. It’s hard to believe that anyone didn’t know Kobe. Heck, it wasn’t unusual for me to hear my 11 year old shout out, “Kobe” when playing NBA Live on Playstation 4 with his friends. Like so many other celebrities, Kobe Bryant could easily drop the last name and be known by just that single moniker, Kobe.
I was stunned to get the news of Bryant right before a church service that I was leading. I was actually more concerned for my son and how he would react. My heart sank when I heard that his daughter was on the helicopter with him and then that there were other fathers and daughters with them. What a terrible tragedy.
In the wake of the tragedy, I started going through my own mind of what I knew about Bryant. I seemed to have remembered a scandal in the early 2000s about him and looked up the information. What’s a celebrity without a scandal, right? But since that scandal, it seems that Kobe was really a family man. While he may have had his struggles, it seems he had made things right since.
It’s interesting that I had been speaking about the celebrity culture in which we live just hours after this news broke. As I got up to give a message last evening about being a compelling community, I spoke of ordinary people who God used to do extraordinary things. Most of those ordinary people are overlooked because of how obsessed our culture has become with celebrities.
In our celebrity obsessed culture, it seems that we know so much about celebrities so that when a tragedy like this takes place, we feel it more deeply. While most of us didn’t know Bryant personally, we knew so much about him and it feels a little like we actually knew him. The pain hits us deeply and we grieve. We grieve for the tragedy. We grieve for the family. We grieve at the senselessness of it all.
Bryant’s daughter aspired to one day play basketball for the University of Connecticut. My wife and her siblings all went to UCONN, so the news hit them deeply as well, having been Lady Huskies fans for years.
All I know is that tragedy continues to strike our world. Sometimes it hits us close, other times far away. Whether close or far, it always seems to have a deeply penetrating impact on me, reminding me of the brevity of life, the importance of family, and the need to do my best to keep my relationships free from the things that would cause conflict and division.
My heart breaks for Bryant’s family, not just grieving a father and husband, but a daughter and sister as well. That hurts no matter what.
It’s interesting too, as I opened up Facebook after I got the news, I saw post after post about the tragedy. It didn’t matter what people believed, who they voted for, what their stances were, somehow, tragedy was bipartisan and everyone could set aside their differences to agree on this one thing, tragedy had struck.
As I thought about that, I wondered to myself, isn’t there something easier that could happen that could bring us all together other than tragedy?