How Kobe’s death connected communities here, everywhere

I cried a little on Sunday when I heard Kobe Bryant and his daughter died. I cried again Monday when I watched video of the helicopter.

I cried a bit again as I hugged my daughter, knowing that there are never enough moments in a day to tell those you love that you love them. The reality that Kobe’s fame and fortune couldn’t protect him or his daughter from this tragedy was a huge reminder to me of how fragile our lives are.

Sports transcends so many things. There’s nothing wrong with that. I remember a story I wrote years ago about a high school girl whose mom committed suicide during the summer. Teachers, forgive me when I say this but that girl didn’t return to school for chemistry class, she didn’t find solace and comfort in her sixth period history class.

The love and care came from her teammates. From her sport. From those she shared a common and competitive bond with. We learn to trust one another.

Kobe Bryant’s death shocked the world. From the superstars to the “has beens who never were,” (and most of us fit delightfully into that category) something about Kobe touched all of us. When he played, we loved him or hated him. When he retired, we still knew him by his first name. If it wasn’t his work ethic or his play that we loved, maybe it was his love for family that we saw. If it wasn’t that, maybe it was a little admiration for his business ventures, or him learning multiple languages — remember, he skipped college and went straight to the pros.

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant hugs his daughter Gianna on the court in warm-ups before first half NBA All-Star Game basketball action on Feb. 14, 2016 in Toronto. (Mark Blinch | The Canadian Press via AP)

But, I guess, that if you have never competed for anything — from grades or the woman you love to a job to a spot on the high school basketball team — maybe you don’t understand. And that’s a shame.

RGV Vipers Jabari Brown competed against Kobe in Lakers training camp. He also played with the Lakers during one season while Kobe was injured. He distinctly remembers that first game as a Laker.

“Kobe would come out late because he was hurt and he came maybe during the middle of the first quarter,” Brown said. “During the timeout, I looked over and he had this big smile on his face and gave me a huge hug and said congrats.

“That’s something I’m always gonna remember. The love he showed for me. That moment right there. That was big to me.”

Vipers assistant coach Sam Daghlas is from Southern California. He began his pro career in the Jordanian National League and recalls watching Kobe highlights before every game he played as a professional. He played for 15 years. He was awestruck by Kobe. He, like so many, tried to emulate who Kobe was and what Kobe did.

Rio Grande Valley Viper assistant basketball coach Sam Daghlas talks about the loss of NBA star Kobe Bryant at Bert Ogden Arena on Monday in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

“I’m still taken back. I don’t want to believe it. The world lost a great one. His legacy will always live on,” said Daghlas, who has a 3-year-old and a newborn on the way in a couple weeks. “I’m sure I’ll be telling my kids about Kobe.

Kobe meant a lot to me. As an athlete you never know how many lives you might touch by just playing, by just showing up for work. At times I think we get caught up in the success we want to have that we forget how many lives we are affecting and how many lives are involved in our day to day stuff.

“Tomorrow is not promised. Make sure you let your loved ones know how you feel. FaceTime them, just stay connected because in our long seasons and in the long haul, it’s hard to stay connected. ‘I’ll talk to them tomorrow,’ or ‘I’ll text instead of calling.’ Things like that put things in perspective. You need to stay connected with your friends and your family, whoever is closest to you.”

I wonder if Kobe was near his daughter as the helicopter began to spin out of control. I wonder if they knew their lives, and the lives of seven others, were about to end.

I wonder if he cried. I did on Sunday. I did on Monday. And I may do it again.

I wonder if he got one final chance to tell his little girl: Daddy loves you.

Parents, take that chance.

I’m lucky. I get that chance: Camilla Miller, daddy loves you.

Henry Miller is sports editor for The Monitor. You can email him at hmiller@themonitor.com

hmiller@themonitor.com