Grief is a strange thing.
It hits everyone differently, but you can’t experience grief without loss, and the world lost a legend Sunday.
A legend who was on a team I never rooted for. A legend who represented a city I’ve only visited once. A legend who played a sport I didn’t stick with as a kid.
A legend who I never met.
The closest connection I have to him is a love of sports and a life dominated by it. I too fell in love with a round-ball sport at a young age.
As for his daughter, Gianna, I was her. I am her.
I, too, am a daughter.
I can still taste the rice bowls from the indoor soccer complex I ate as a kid as my parents spent hours each week night watching me play the sport I loved all night long.
I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t pay for the team fees and I couldn’t remember my water bottle to save my life. “It’s in the trunk,” my mom or dad would say as I hopped out of their mud-stained back seats.
You don’t think about all the sacrifice, the oftentimes embarrassing support and the drop-everything-without-pause way in which your parents love what you love.
In my case it was a Toyota Highlander, but nonetheless, Kobe was taking his daughter to play the sport she loved. The sport he loved.
He was being a parent. Chances are he was running through the checklist with Gianna the same way my parents did as we ran out the door.
“Do you have your cleats? Do you have your shin guards? Do you have your water?”
Chances are I didn’t have everything I needed to play, but I did have the most important thing – my parents.
This one felt all too real to me. It wasn’t a superstar’s drug overdose or a long battle with cancer. It was a father taking his daughter to basketball practice.
I grieve for his widow Vanessa. I grieve for his three daughters who lost their dad and their sister. I grieve for his friends, his teammates and everyone around the globe he touched and inspired. I grieve for the Altobelli family. I grieve for Christina Mauser’s loved ones and those who knew and loved Ara Zobayan.
But most importantly, I grieve as a daughter.
I’m now an adult and my parents are no longer needed as a chauffeur or cheerleader. We have a much different relationship now.
I see my parents as imperfect humans, as an example for how a marriage ebbs and flows through the seasons of life and as two people I never thanked enough and could never possibly thank enough for taking me to soccer practice.