By TOLSON BANNER
The “hush” always descends upon us unannounced. Like the King of Pop. Like the Queen of Soul. Just like Prince. It transforms time into a quivering moment and shakes us. This is where the unthinkable becomes the real-life tragedy. Our feelings tremble as we attempt to come to grips with the fragility of life. In this space we slow down our speed for living to heartbeat to heartbeat. We gasp for air. The recurring news confirm what we had prayed and hoped to be untrue: Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, and seven others – including John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli, their daughter Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, and daughter Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan – killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
As news of their untimely demise becomes widespread, we all seek to find answers to the why. None are comforting. Most are reflections. We primarily reflect on how could someone on earth just 41 years do so much? And we are saddened by the fact Kobe had so much of life still ahead. I am reminded of the old folks who would say, “You are called home when your work is done.” It appears as if Kobe’s work had been done. If that is true then the rest of us still have some work to do!
We marvel at athletes who achieve heights beyond our limited visualizations. During one of Kobe’s many interviews, the Laker guard said when he was just 2 years old dribbling the basketball was a sacred undertaking. Kobe explained hearing the ball pound the wooden floor was hypnotic. The NBA MVP player went on to talk about how he relished when the ball went through the hoop and strings – the “SWISH” sound it made was universal rhythmic music. With this uncanny attention to detail, most credit Kobe with exporting the game of basketball to Europe. If sports are a metaphor for life then Kobe lived life to the fullest.
Kobe without a doubt was/is a star. We follow stars because they lead us to where our imaginations have yet to take us. Kobe’s star was brilliant, radiating an illumination that was blinding at times: five NBA championships; 18 times NBA All-Star; 2 Olympic gold medals; 2 NBA Finals MVP – far too many to list here. But above and beyond sports, Kobe was a family man, husband and father. Mamba excelled equally in business, humanitarian efforts as well as receiving an Oscar for his short film Dear Basketball.
Kobe was equally as tenacious in raising money for just causes: giving a $1 million to help build the African American Museum; Kenny “The Jet” Smith, former NBA player and now TNT basketball analyst said when he was trying to raise money for the Katrina victims he reached out to Kobe. Smith said Kobe was the only one he called and shortly thereafter 25 NBA players had signed up. Smith was quick to remind all who would be playing what Kobe admonished, “to strap up your laces.” Kobe was always the competitor supreme!
For those of us who don’t believe in coincidences, let me offer you these readings from the universal order: According to news accounts, the call about the helicopter crash came in at 9:47 a.m. West Coast time. Nine plus four plus seven equals 20: the number of years Kobe played in the NBA after entering the league “straight outta” high school.
We now recognize there was a metaphysical underlying meaning to Kobe wearing the number 8. In numerology, the number 8 when laid on its side is the sign for infinity. What Kobe accomplished, on and off the basketball court, without a doubt – will live until the end of forever.
Later in Kobe’s career he wore jersey number 24. Basketball aficionados know this is the amount of seconds each team with possession must shoot the ball and hit the rim or they would be cited for a violation. What Kobe did within 24 seconds with the ball in his hands was magical, breathtaking, and poetic. NBA teams playing on this tragic day honored Kobe by taking the 24 second violation. Lebron James 24 hours earlier surpassed Kobe as the third leading scorer in the history of the NBA. James now wearing a Laker’s jersey, noted this historic moment took place where Kobe graduated from high school: Philadelphia. James later recalled the moment as surreal. The Los Angeles Lakers eventually retired both of Kobe’s jerseys.
When father time came knocking, Kobe refused to give in without Mamba pushback. After suffering a torn ACL, a displaced rotator cup and a broken ankle Kobe embraced a rehab regimen that made us squeamish just watching. Kobe’s last game as a Laker, Mamba scored 60 points and told us “Mamba Out.”
We now know stars don’t dissipate. NASA confirmed that for us. According to the space agency, stars transform into black holes with a gravitational pull so strong they even attract light. Even in this dark hour we bear witness to the gravitational pull of Kobe’s remarkable life and his adroit ability to attract us with the brilliant light of his magnetism. We saw his star transform right before our eyes: Black (Hole) Mamba.
Tolson Banner is a writer and columnist. He was the first African American Public Information Officer with NASA and later produced a national syndicated program for the space agency titled, NASA and YOU to recruit more African American engineers. He can be reached at email@example.com.