Originally posted on Medium, January 27, 2020

There were three messages on my phone. One from my dad and two from friends telling me that Kobe Bryant had passed away along with his young daughter, Gianna, and 7 others in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. It’s not the news you expect to see on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Kobe Bryant was drafted into the NBA out of high school in 1996. I was a high schooler myself and remember seeing photos of him going to prom with pop star Brandy. Over the years it was easy to forget he was only a few years older. It was the people of my generation, the oldest of older millennials and young gen Xers, who shared in the collective grief over social media. Kobe Bryant at 41 was one of us.

Bryant was by all accounts a complicated man. Not only for his on-court intensity and rivalries but for an off-court incident too. In 2003, he was accused of sexual assault. As a staunch supporter of survivors of sexual assault, I questioned my respect for Bryant. He may also be an example of how to redeem yourself after sexual assault allegations. Bryant apologized, admitted that the young woman saw the encounter differently than he did, he understood why she viewed it as assault, learned from his terrible mistake and there have been no further reports. There will always be an asterisk by his name.

Yet, when people would tell him he needed a son to carry on his legacy, he would tell them he had Gianna, Bryant recalled in a 2018 interview with Jimmy Kimmel. Anointing his daughter as the heir to his legacy won’t erase past mistakes but it was a huge step forward. Girls who have parents that support their dreams and see their infinite potential is what the world needs more of.

He loved Basketball. Listening to him talk about the game was thrilling. This was a guy who knew the sport inside and out. Even before his animated short, Dear Basketball, confirmed it, I imagined him re-watching old games the way my brothers watched Star Wars movies over and over again. He was a true student of the game. Is there another player who loved the game as much as obsessively as passionately as Kobe? I’m not convinced.

An intellectual on and off the court. Bryant was fluent in Italian and gave interviews in Spanish. He even won an Oscar for his short film! He may have been finished playing professional basketball but he certainly had more to give the world. And so did his young daughter, who wanted to be a professional basketball player like her dad, and all the other victims of the crash.

But most of all what broke my heart was that his daughter and two other young girls died on their way to a basketball game. I remember being a 13-year-old girl. Loving her parents one moment and yes on occasion hating them the next. They were on their way to their game along with other parents, players, and a coach. I remember being that kid.

Youth sports are a family affair in the US. Shuttling their kids across town is a weekend ritual for so many. Your dad or mom coaching your team or watching from the stands is part of childhood. So many of my generation grew up like this. These memories part of our lives. We were the daughters and sons who spent their weekends on fields and in gyms. Some of us are now the parents who watch from the sidelines. Even those of us who aren’t, feel the sadness of losing a public person too soon and in such a tragic manner.

I see my peers thinking about their own families in the wake of this tragedy. Hugging their kids just a little bit tighter. Remember how their dads came to their games. We’ve always known tomorrow is never guaranteed. Today it seems just a little truer.