Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter, and seven others died in a tragic helicopter crash yesterday just minutes from my house. Bryant’s untimely death is another reminder to cherish the moments you have with loved ones.
It was a foggy morning in Los Angeles yesterday and I heard the news from Barbara Klein on NPR while driving home from church…it will be one of those moments, like 9/11, where I will remember where I was for the rest of my life.
Long before my love of travel and frequent flyer miles, I was a huge fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. I grew up watching the team get better and better until it finally recaptured the NBA title in 2000 (and again in 2001 and 2002).
My uncle’s neighbor did visual and lighting effects for the Lakers at Staples Center. On February 19, 2000, he invited my uncle to the game. My uncle knew I was a huge Lakers fan and included my brother and me in the invitation.
The Lakers were playing the Philadelphia 76ers and won the game 87-84. That would have been enough, but then my uncle’s friend brought us down to the Laker’s locker room after the game.
I got to meet several Lakers I admired, including Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, and A.C. Green.
And Kobe Bryant.
He stopped to say hello. He signed our Lakers posters, smiled, and shook our hands. This was before smart phones or else I’d post evidence…instead, the encounter lingers only in memory.
It says so much about someone when they are kind to others. Bryant stopped to talk to everyone who had managed to wedge themselves at the door of the locker room. He probably wanted to rush to his helicopter to get home…but he stopped and acknowledged all the people who were so delighted to see him, including me.
Those Dangerous Helicopters
The deadly crash of Bryant’s helicopter reminded me of another helicopter crash…a Blade chopper that crashed into the East River in March 2018. It was the same helicopter that I had taken from Manhattan to Newark Airport months earlier. What if it had been me on that helicopter?
Slate reports that you are 85x more likely to die in a helicopter crash than a car crash. Even though the odds remain very much in your favor, it still a sobering statistic.
The loss of Bryant, only 41, is tragic enough. The loss of his daughter and the other youth onboard compound the tragedy.
I’ll get on helicopters again…but not in fog. No way.
Hard Work + Precious Life
Faith provides comfort, but families are now broken and the whole world mourns. Bryant wasn’t perfect…none of us are. But Bryant’s hard work and dedication should prove an inspiration to us all and offers a blueprint of success. The idea that what we accomplish in life is simply the product of our circumstances is not a satisfactory conclusion. Even with the inherent obstacles that race and class can place (and do place) on many, Bryant demonstrates the tremendous value of hard work and perseverance. Even as a tall guy, his skills were not innate. His story inspires me to work harder.
But this story caused me to grip my wife and son very closely last night and again this morning. I am more thankful than ever for my dear wife and son and my precious family and friends.
Every day may be our last…time like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away. What gives me great solace is the rest of that hymn. But here’s a universal application: do not take those around you for granted. Shower loved ones with affection today. Reconcile with your neighbor and enjoy the life that you have been given. Your day–and mine–may be coming sooner than expected.