When I heard that Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other individuals passed away in a helicopter crash earlier this week, I could not believe it. A part of me still doesn't. I knew my childhood hero was not a god. I was well aware that he was shockingly far from perfect; I just thought he was far from death as well.
As a child growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I used to stay up late watching Kobe's games because I felt that gluing my eyes to a TV screen in Maryland could somehow deliver championships to his team in L.A. My brother and I created versions of ourselves on the video game NBA Live and played alongside him on the Lakers. And I literally drew inspiration from Kobe; using what I thought was my eye for detail, I sketched a picture of Kobe dunking that adorned my bedroom wall for years. In light of Kobe's death, however, I see his life — or rather, the lives he and his wife, Vanessa, created — from a new perspective, and I also view my future children through a different lens.
Although Kobe was obsessed with his basketball career, it appeared that he became just as focused on a more important line of work — being a present father to his four daughters. In particular, Kobe's relationship with his daughter, Gianna, was eye-opening.
Kobe was truly intent on helping Gianna achieve her goal of basketball dominance. It would have surprised no one if she made it to the WNBA. If she also ultimately played in the NBA — and Kobe himself believed that women belonged in the league — then she would have actually been a third-generation NBA player. After all, her grandfather, Joe Bryant, was the first person in the family to play in the NBA.
We can only imagine how Gianna would have added to the history of the Bryants. She was born with the same fire that her father possessed as a prodigy, but she would have also been molded by the wisdom that Kobe acquired after years of work on his humanity. Since Kobe was also passionate about business, art and philanthropy, Gianna might have shattered glass ceilings in a variety of arenas and opened doors to others along the way. Who knows? Eventually, we might have simply referred to the “Black Mamba” as “Gianna’s dad.”
Unfortunately, these are just hypotheticals. My children will never have a chance to idolize a transcendent Gianna like their father once looked up to a teenaged Kobe. Although my future daughters and sons will never watch Gianna's NBA games on TV, play on her team in video games or draw her rising up for a dunk, I do think I will try to retrace Kobe's love of fatherhood once I have my own flesh and blood.