This has always been my issue. My rawest emotions are in Telugu, which I can’t write in. English still seems foreign despite calling America home these past 20 years. Every time I begin to express my thoughts in English, I really do just struggle with choosing the right words. Especially today. This sounds crazy, but I just do not know which of my emotions are genuine and which are forced thoughts from the social media I’ve consumed these past 12 hours. But ever since I heard about Kobe’s accident (which I still just cannot get myself to believe), my heart has been pounding hard. Last night, I couldn’t control my tears as I was sitting alone in my Zurich apartment watching the few live news streams I could find on YouTube along with other celebrities’ posts on his death. All of my Instagram friends were reposting or sharing stories of his death as if no one else had heard the news – which made it worse. Way worse. And, I didn’t have a distraction.
I was never a hardcore Lakers fan, but I do remember watching the team play with my dad, who loves the Lakers and Heat NBA games. I knew two players then – Kobe and Shaq. The fiery attitude they had shown for a sport that they were absolutely passionate about was alluring. Perhaps, that attitude was why I began to adore Kohli and Djokovic. Years passed and next I saw Kobe representing America in the Olympics with the other top basketball players. To be honest, I couldn’t really distinguish who was who when the anthem was playing as they were bestowed with their Gold medals. But I knew Kobe, KD, and Lebron were in it to win it.
Again years passed without me focusing on Kobe’s games too much until 2015 struck. “Dear Basketball” was published, and I was in awe. I hadn’t known what all Kobe had gone through physically, emotionally, and mentally. But one thing was clear – the man had accomplished more than any other basketball player in my lifetime. No, I wasn’t one of his diehard fans, but when I heard “Mamba Out” during his last game in Spring 2016, I was so emotional and speechless. I am not sure how to express it in words, but it was the same feeling when Dhoni stepped down from captaincy and announced his retirement from test matches. It truly felt like an end of an era. Years pass again without me giving Kobe much attention as my social media focused more on LeBron and Curry. I’d read about his Grammy award and how his daughters were taking up the sport. But nothing more. I knew somewhere Kobe was raising his family and having an amazing second chapter.
But that news of his tragic death alongside his teenage daughter last night tore me. Shook me. It made me realize (once again) that life is too damn unpredictable and short. It is never about just me. It is my family that I owe everything to. They are the ones I should be grateful to. But I’ve been doing everything but that these past few years. Why did I think that was OK? Why did I think drifting away from them and disobeying all the values they’d instilled in me was OK? Why did I think I was better than them? Kobe, thank you for bringing me back down to where I needed to be from the beginning, for helping me understand that life is too damn short, and for motivating me to be more active in showing my love for my family and those around me. No one or nothing means more to me.
And with that, rest in peace legend. Take care of your daughter up there. The world will continue to remember your legacy and support your family to get through during this tough time. You have been and will always be admired.