Opinion & Editorial

Kobe’s complicated legacy

Kobe Bryant’s sudden death is an opportunity to better understand forgiveness and personal growth, Chronicle columnist Pat Edwards says. Photo provided

This past week, many of us – possibly most of us, in the U.S. – experienced the horrific pain of the loss of multiple young lives. Fatal accidents as well as premature death of those generations younger than ourselves happen every day and much too often. Each is tragic to those who knew, loved and respected the individuals lost and we join together to mourn their loss in our own way.
When that unexpected loss involves someone who is well-known and widely respected, it puts a familiar face on a senseless tragedy and brings many of us together in grief.
Kobe Bryant was a basketball legend and was one of nine people who lost their lives suddenly in a helicopter crash in southern California the morning of Sunday, Jan. 26. The fact that he was a legend does not make the loss of his life any more tragic than the other eight precious lives lost. Because of his fame, however, each of us was made painfully aware that none of us are immune from disaster; each of us is vulnerable, and the loss of a human life diminishes all of us.
Kobe Bryant’s life was not gilded in gold. Like each of us, he made some bad choices as a young adult when the inevitable price of fame and fortune clouded common sense. I was not a fan of the cocky young man he was at the time; but in recent years, he seemed to have turned his life around and I’ve come to respect the man he eventually became.
His focus turned to family, and as the father of four daughters, his attention and interests were based upon working with them and other young athletes to help develop the skills that might one day enrich their lives.
He established the Mamba Sports Academy in early 2019 as a multisport training facility for both boys and girls, in part because Gianna (”Gigi”), his second-oldest daughter, had shown a love and talent for the game of basketball. Through her, Kobe became a champion for the sport of women’s basketball and began taking Gigi to watch some of the best women’s basketball teams and players around the nation at work.
That’s how he met and became one of the biggest fans of the University of Oregon’s own all-star guard, Sabrina Ionescu. He became her friend and mentor and brought Gigi with him to watch the Ducks play at the 2019 NCAA Women’s Semifinals. They attended other games when the Ducks played closer to their home in California and Gigi, too, became Sabrina’s friend and fan.
The loss of Kobe Bryant was tragic and sad, but my heart aches as much, if not more, for the other individuals and pilot who were on board that star-crossed helicopter that Sunday morning. They included a father, mother and their daughter who was a friend and teammate of Gigi’s; another friend and teammate and that girl’s mother; and a woman coach who had worked with the three girls, who left a husband and family behind. And, of course, the pilot lost his life, as well.
Last, but certainly not least, is the final victim, whose loss seems to tug at my heartstrings the most: Gigi, 13, who was onboard that helicopter with her father that day, too.
I am writing of this horrific event this week because I want to point out the two very strong lessons that it carries: in the face of tragedy, the majority of us tend to shed our differences and join together in our shared sorrow.
We must be willing to see beyond our first impressions of people and be willing to forgive them their poor decisions or actions if they have shown a true willingness and determination to change for the better.
As a nation, we must find a way to recognize and respect the differences that currently divide us and focus on the wonderful things that we share – accepting others for who they are without the tragedy. It can be done … we just need to want it badly enough.

Pat Edwards is a Chronicle columnist for the Lorane area. She can be reached at



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