How do we feel about Kobe?
I was and am a Lakers fan, since Magic. I watched those championships with Shaq and Kobe. I took a break from sports as I built my life and career, but have come back in this era of AD and LeBron. I was watching that game, just last night, when LeBron passed Kobe for 3rd all time in points scored.
And then, today, the world stopped with a short intake of breath:
“12:35 PM PT — Kobe’s daughter Gianna Maria — aka GiGi — was also on board the helicopter and died in the crash … reps for Kobe tell TMZ Sports. She was 13. We’re told they were on their way to the Mamba Academy for a basketball practice when the crash occurred. The Academy is in nearby Thousand Oaks…”
So how do we feel about Kobe?
How do I, as a fan and a man who wants to be a good human and good dad, some day, feel about Kobe?
Beautiful to watch play the game he loved so much. A true champion. Unlike most legends, he continued to devote himself to mentoring young players.
A devoted father—his evident and real love for his daughters, his doting attention and investment in their lives, was inspiring.
As a husband, who knows. They had rocky times, reconciling at least twice. Who are we, or anyone, to judge. But now, at least, things had seemed really good, for a long time.
As a businessman, he was capable and just getting started.
As a human, he seemed warmed, dignified, grounded, powerful, open.
And, the elephant in the room—that rape allegation, two decades back, where he admitted (after denying) having an affair with a spa staff person in Vail, and half-admitted that it could have been rape—admitting while he saw it as consensual, she clearly did not. There were plenty of details, some that matter, some that don’t.
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did,” he said in his statement. “After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
But let’s just say, as the Romantics said, that life is about being able to hold two contradictory realities in one’s mind at the same time. He was a legend, a loving father, his untimely loss is heartbreaking—and, he may have done one of the cruelest things a human can do. That we all make mistakes should not be an excuse, nor is the passage of time. We do not all make that kind of mistake.
And yet, the truth never fully outed, and as with so much in real life (as opposed to twitter or facebook comments), life is complicated, not black vs. white, good vs. evil.
Can a hero be imperfect? Perhaps it is the notion of “hero” that needs to be reexamined—as I do here. Theism ain’t healthy.
So mourn his loss, and even more painfully, as President Obama said, the loss of his 13-year-old daughter (“Folks come up to me and say you gotta have a son, continue the legacy! And she says, nah, I got this,” Kobe said, recently, so proud) and the lives of the other passengers, some of whom are yet to be identified.
But do not pretend he’s perfect, or that you are, or that anyone is.
And at the same time, do not use imperfection as an excuse for cruel actions.
Humans are not black or white, all good or all bad. This life is short, precious, and to be lived for the benefit of others. In so many ways, Kobe was doing that, and the loss of that is to be purely mourned.
Being fully human, or practicing journalism, is the art of responsibly telling truth. All of Kobe’s life is part of his life’s story, and mourning anyone—a family loved one—must always include all of them, not just ignoring what happened—good and bad.