December 9, 2023

Kobe Bryant’s death signifies the most tragic celebrity death of my lifetime. Sure, the death’s of Prince or Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson caused an immense amount of sadness, but I didn’t feel as connected with those pop culture icons the same way I feel connected to Kobe. Kobe came into most of our lives in 1995, as a high school basketball phenom who was also taking Brandy to prom.

From that point forward, Kobe was a fixture in our pop culture lives, especially those of us who loved and appreciated the game of basketball. And even though Kobe was a few years older than me, I found myself growing up with him. Obviously, my career highs and lows are nowhere close to his, but witnessing this imperfect superhero navigate through life gives you a connection a point.

And while I continue to mourn Kobe’s death, his memorial reminded me to celebrate his life.

Kobe Bryant touched millions of people. And his impact on those of us, both close to him, and those of us who never had the opportunity to meet him were highlighted during a memorial that celebrated life. People like Shaq, Rob Pelinka, Michael Jordan’s crying face, and especially Vanessa Bryant all reminded us of how much Kobe loved life. They reminded us of how much Kobe loved the person he had become and the person he was also becoming. They reminded us of how much Kobe loved his daughters, as he looked forward to helping his girls navigate arenas of all kinds, even arenas not traditionally reserved for daughters.

And THAT’S the connection point I had with Kobe.

I’m not a basketball savant, or an Oscar winning story teller, but I am a father. I’m the father of two amazing daughters, who, like Kobe, want’s my daughters to strive for something more than what society intends for them.

The memorial was touching because it provided us an array of emotions. Everything from sadness, to joy, to laughter, to tears (Michael Jordan’s crying face somehow provided all the above).

Michael Jordan Cries at Kobe Bryant Memorial Service

We witnessed Beyonce sing her heart out. We laughed with Shaq when he recalled a story of him telling Kobe after teammates were complaining Kobe wasn’t passing the ball that, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.” “I know,” Kobe replied, per Shaq. “But there’s an M-E in that motherfucker.” Michael Jordan touched every emotion on stage, as he not only managed to get in some self-depreciating humor, but also told stories of Kobe’s little brother habits. We listened to Alicia Keys play the piano, Jimmy Kimmel hold back tears and Rob Pelinka remind us that Kobe was a hero until the end.

And Vanessa Bryant reminded us of how much Kobe and GiGi loved life..

and each other.

Vanessa reminded us of how much baby girl wanted to be just like her father. She tearfully mourned the loss of her “baby girl” Gianna, “a sweet and gentle soul” who she said was destined for basketball greatness. She remembered her husband as a soulful romantic with a “tender heart” and a “doting” father for whom family always came first. “They were funny, happy, silly, and they loved life,” Vanessa said of Kobe and Gianna, adding: “God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to heaven together.”

“Babe, you take care of our Gigi,” Vanessa reminded Kobe. But I’m willing to bet Kobe didn’t need reminding.

Because that’s what us Girl Dads do.

Vanessa Bryant shares powerful, emotional words at Kobe and Gianna Bryant Memorial | CBS Sports HQ

Leslie McLemore writes about a lot of different shit for Black With No Chaser. He is also the Takeaway Kang and is the father of two beautiful girls, one of which gets on every nerve he has. The other one is sweet. So, you know, balance. 

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