Senselessness Shakes the Sports World
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Kobe Bryant and I had the most cursory of relationships born on the fact that I covered a lot of NBA Finals and league All-Star games that he turned into a routine for himself.
That, along with Bryant's occasional trips to Minneapolis and his hometown of Philadelphia, meant one of the most famous people in the world knew a slightly-above average writer from South Jersey.
You didn't see me on social media on Sunday because I was floored by Bryant's tragic death in a helicopter accident that took too many others as well, including his 13-year-old daughter Gigi. The thousands of thoughts and prayers on social media came across to me like they always do, empty platitudes.
Hours later I'm still not even quite sure why this celebrity death hit me like a ton of bricks. I barely knew the man, had long-graduated from the world of fandom and barely thought about Bryant as he transitioned into retirement. I'm not going to pretend he inspired me or there was a sense of provincial pride because he was Philadelphia-made. I was over 1,000 miles away when Bryant was at Lower Merion.
His father, Joe, was actually a bigger a part of my sports world. My favorite team as a child was the Julius Erving 76ers and "Jellybean" was a part of it even though the elder Bryant never lived up to the billing as a former first-round pick out of La Salle.
Turns out Joe's real greatness was genetics and producing a real generational talent, a term I typically hate because of it's overuse. Once in a generation means once in a generation and the people who are in that club are fee and far between.
Obviously Kobe was physically gifted by the greatness comes when you marry that to work ethic and the desire to be the best. Many of us are competitive but few can accept rest until they reach their goal. Bryant was in that category, the best closer not named Michael Jordan or Mariano Rivera.
His greatness entertained me, the same as Prince or Tom Petty but there deaths didn't hit me nearly as hard.
The last seconds of his life unable to help his daughter certainly resonated but there are so many tragic deaths in the world and my wife had handed me a weekend honey-do list long before the news shattered the public. Life moved on but there was a gray tint to it that was real for me.
Those of means often use helicopters to beat the notorious Southern California traffic and if you have the ability to do so it's a great decision to improve quality of life for you and your family, right up to the day it isn't whether the NTSA finds pilor error or maintenance problems.
There's nothing to learn there, though. We all trust others we don't even know to get through the day whether it's the mechanic who fixes our cars or hoping the driver right next to us isn't distracted at the wrong time.
Birth is agony the women in my life tell me, everyone my age understands life is hard, and death is often cruel with a twist of unfair thrown in this time.
Bryant was here one moment and gone the next. Not from disease or drug addiction. It was his daily routine and that's a senselessness tough to shake.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen