Kobe Bryant's Death

Kobe, Gianna and 7 others are gone.

Jim Rome
January 27, 2020 - 9:23 am
Kobe Bryant And Vanessa

USA Today

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This is a show that I never thought I’d be doing and even saying it right now, feels completely surreal. I cannot believe that Kobe Bryant is gone

It makes absolutely no sense at all and does not compute. It does not line up that Kobe Bryant died yesterday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. It does not make sense that in a moment, a helicopter went down, taking with it John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zoyaban.

According to reports, there was poor visibility and that the helicopter was climbing to go above a layer of clouds when it crashed shortly before ten AM. 

When I first saw the tweet from TMZ, I thought it was a hoax. I thought they had been hacked. And it was so bizarre that when you went to their timeline, one minute after the Kobe tweet, was a tweet from TMZ about the 20th anniversary of a Grammys photoshoot involving The Goo Goo Dolls and Britney Spears. 

It has to be a hoax, right? But as time passed, it was clear that it wasn’t. 

It reminds me of when Pat Tillman died. He had enlisted and when you do that, anything can happen. You know the risks. 

But I never thought that Pat would not come home. The idea that he would not come home was impossible to comprehend. I never thought that Pat Tillman would die. Just like I never thought Kobe Bryant would not be here. I never thought I’d be doing a show where I was talking about the death of Kobe Bryant. 

Obviously I know that Kobe Bryant was a human being and that the only thing guaranteed as a human is that you will die. But I never actually thought about Kobe dying. And I certainly never thought it would happen on a random Sunday morning in January. 

The shock of it is unbelievable. It’s unfathomable. And it is even more surreal that it happened in Calabasas, where I grew up. A place that I know so well. And right near a road I used to go up and down all the time. None of this makes sense.

The cliché is that it feels like a bad dream, but that’s exactly how it feels. Because there are bits and pieces of reality, but the whole thing simply does not add up. Like so many others, I’m having trouble processing this; getting my head around it. 

Then there are moments, where, the shock starts to wear off and the horrible sadness begins to sink in. And it’s horrific. 

Horrific for Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, and their daughters. Awful for the friends and family of the Altobellis, for Christina Mauser’s husband and family, for the friends and family of Sarah and Payton Chester, and the friends and family of Ara Zobayan.

So here’s what we’re going to do today – we’ve rescheduled a couple of the guests who were supposed to be today. 

Woj will be here in the second hour. Rudy Gobert was scheduled to be in the second hour as well and if he’s feeling up to it, we’ll have him on to talk about Kobe and also about the season that he’s having. Chris McGee will also be on later in the show as well to talk about his memories of Kobe.

I’ll talk about Kobe, the impact of everything that happened, and his connection to the show, but I’ll also open up the phones to you. 

If you want to call in to talk about it, to grieve, to share memories, whatever you’d like to do, do it. If you’d rather email, if that feels easier, do that. 

Because this one hurts. If you aren’t from LA and you aren’t a Laker fan, it might seem strange that people are this emotionally involved with one athlete, but the relationship that Kobe had with Los Angeles was unique. 

It was unlike anything else. There have been other great athletes who have played here. Other icons. But none of them were as embraced by this city as Kobe. And none of them embraced the city the way he did. And it wasn’t just about championships or MVP trophies or All-Star Game appearances. 

Given the relationship between Kobe and LA, you would’ve thought that he’d grown up here, not on the East Coast. I could spend the entire show breaking down his relationship with the city and why he was such a huge part of it, why he was a lot of people’s favorite Laker. I could do that for the next three hours and it still wouldn’t do it justice. 

There was a connection between Kobe and LA that really cannot be described, it can only be felt. But if that’s something you want to call in about and explain why you personally felt so connected to him, do it. 

I knew Kobe a little bit. I’m not going to claim that we were great friends, but he would hit me up sometimes out of the blue and we’d go to Javier’s. I would see him around town. We live in the same area. There is a personal connection to this that makes it harder. It hits a lot closer to home.

Knowing that we aren’t going to Javier’s ever again and that I won’t see him around town ever again is so weird, so surreal.  

Kobe was not for everyone. He knew that. And he liked that. But he was for Los Angeles. 

You might not have liked his intensity and drive on the court. He knew that. And he liked it. He didn’t care if you rooted for him or not. He was okay with that. In fact, he was more than okay with that. 

On the court, in the practice gym, in the weight room, he was fierce. Fierce as hell. There was a ferocity that you don’t see very often. A drive to constantly get better, relentlessly looking to improve. As he once told Jackie MacMullan: "I could never understand why winning wasn't the most important thing to everyone. Why are you here then?"

That was the force that drove him on the court. Winning. Being better. Getting better. Beating everyone. Dominating everyone. 

I could also spend the next three hours or the next week breaking down why this is so heartbreaking, and that wouldn’t do it justice either. Because there are so many heartbreaking moments about it. 

Starting with the fact that he was just getting started. It seems crazy to say that after nearly two decades in the NBA, Kobe Bryant was just getting started. But he was.

He was 41. He wasn’t a guy who was searching for something to do in retirement, kicking around aimlessly. He had a plan and he was working it. And he was relentless in that, too. He was taking the same approach to life after basketball that he’d taken to his life in basketball.

He’d already won an Academy Award. How crazy is that? An MVP and an Oscar? Who knows what he was going to do next? Who knows what we all missed out on and will never see?

And here’s the even worse part. He was just getting started in his professional life, but he was just getting started in his personal life as well. Seeing him having time to be a father and reveling in that role was so cool and so inspiring. 

Just like now seeing the videos of Kobe with Gianna are so painful, because it was clear how much he adored her. Like this clip from Jimmy Kimmel.

I’m going to wrap up this segment in a moment, but I’m not going to close with a grand pronouncement about life and death. Or tell you to hug your loved ones or call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time. But if you’re feeling moved to do any of that, do it.

But you already know it. We all know it. This thing can be over in a moment. In a heartbeat. There is an awful truth to all of this. Even the people who we never think are going to die, will die. Even your heroes die.  

It can end in a moment. On a random Sunday morning in January.