NBA fans have lost a part of themselves with the loss of Kobe Bryant

The tragic and unexpected death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant has rocked the global sports landscape. Fans everywhere, most who never even saw Kobe play live, immediately broke down upon hearing the news.

In the world of sports, a player is not born a superstar. Only the fans can decide if an athlete is worthy of such a title. Kobe Bryant was a superstar, a giant in the world of basketball, noted for his play on the court and his leadership on and off the court.

While people often are considered leaders because of a family they are born into (ex: royalty) or a title they hold (ex: CEO) the most common definition of effective leadership is one that empowers others. However, the most successful leaders go to the highest level of commitment, setting an example by working as hard, if not more, than what they expect from others. Again, that was Kobe.

Nobody outworked him. He made others better. You had to play at your best if you wanted to be on Kobe’s team. When Kobe passed you the ball he empowered you to be great. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

But this article is not written to acknowledge specific accomplishments in Kobe Bryant’s career. Rather, it’s about the reaction that Kobe’s death has elicited from fans, like myself, who feel a part of our being has been lost forever.

I started watching sports as a 10-year-old child. My earliest memories are acting out Bulls games in my basement while listening to Jim Durham’s radio broadcast. I literally would fall backwards taking the charge with Jerry Sloan.

That same year I made a makeshift goalie mask from card board and played floor hockey pretending to be Tony Esposito. I still am able to imitate the swings of all the great baseball players from that time including Joe Morgan, Willie Stargell and my favorite Dick Allen.

Sports became my hobby of choice. Whether pretending as a teen to be Bob “Butterbean” Love or Scottie Pippen, later as an adult, I lived vicariously through my sports heroes. I wanted them to be invincible.

So when my wife broke the news that she had just watched on CNN, I began to bawl like a child. I turned to her and said “I can’t believe I am crying so much. It’s not like I even knew him. It’s just so sad”.

I think a lot of us had a similar reaction. My heart sunk and I mourned. The loss of Kobe was the loss of a sports icon that symbolized all the reasons I love sports.

As a Chicago fan, knowing the impact a great player can have on his hometown, I especially feel the pain of the fans in Los Angeles.

May the families of all involved in this unexplainable incident find comfort.

May Kobe rest in peace.