When I heard the news that Kobe Bryant died, I think I felt as stunned as just about anyone else in America. And, when I heard his daughter was among the 9 people who died in that helicopter crash, I truly felt grief over the situation.
As I reflected on the strings being pulled in my heart, I found myself questioning why I felt this way.
Was it merely because he was young, a star, and that his daughter and others perished in such an unforeseen and tragic way? I’m sure there is something to that idea. But that answer still doesn’t satisfy me. I feel like there is something more. But what is it?
After all, I’ve never been a big basketball fan. Being from Chicago, I watched Michael Jordan a bit as a kid. But after Jordan retired, I’ve only watched a handful of games. And to be honest, I’ve never watched Kobe Bryant play a single game. My knowledge of him is about as deep as a highlight reel, and I’ve never had any sort of emotional attachment to him.
All I knew of Kobe Bryant is that he was among one of the greatest players to play basketball. He was something of a national treasure and hero to many. And now he is dead.
Maybe that is why I grieve. And maybe that’s why so many others like me grieve as well. We might not care much for basketball, but there is something about us that identifies with “greatness,” and we knew Kobe Bryant to be great.
Greatness is something we all yearn for in some measure, and it is something we instantly recognize in others. And because God is great, I believe the greatness in others is something that comes from God, as individuals created in His image. We all have a deposit of that greatness inside all of us.
That is why we all have heroes and role models, people we look up to, and people we want to be like. We see something beautiful and wondrous in others, and we want the opportunity to share in that ourselves.
And when someone truly great dies, a person that was looked up to and admired by many, our souls feel the beauty that they brought into the world disappear with them. We mourn because the greatness that God imparted into this world through them is now missing. So we mourn over that, and we do so together.
Thank you Kobe Bryant for giving us a taste of something great. Rest in peace.