Remembering Kobe Now Means Remembering All of Him
A year later, it’s time to contend with the man’s whole self — his growth and wrongs in equal measure
A year after Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s sudden death, it still feels like an open wound. Some people are able to remember exactly where they were when they heard the news. That’s not the case for me. What I remember is the feeling: first apprehension, then a visceral pang as my heart sank into the soles of my feet. I do remember, quite clearly, a gap in both time and information when news filtered out about the helicopter crash. In that weird temporal displacement, we faced possibilities that ranged from dubious (that this whole thing was a TMZ farce) to utterly heartbreaking (that both Kobe and his daughter were indeed on the aircraft).
Once the news was confirmed, his colleagues were, like the rest of us, stunned. Shaq immediately posted a photo of the big man newlywed-carrying Bean during their dynasty run. On court, NBA players committed intentional turnovers in honor of Kobe’s retired jersey numbers: eight-second violations for not advancing the ball across half-court, 24-second shot clock violations. “I know you said keep going,” wrote Dwyane Wade, the player most like Kobe than anyone outside Michael Jordan, “but today, we can’t.” Wade echoed the world. This was one of the few times the royal We could be used accurately. We all just stopped, digesting deaths that didn’t feel real.
Weeks, months after his death, Kobe continues to trend on social media platforms regularly, but never with the irreverent tone other popular topics received. He’s always revered. He’s always the role model. He is the girl-dad, the hustler, the teacher and student. That sanctity extended to his fans’ grief, which didn’t receive the questioning or interrogation that others did when remembering high-profile Black men felled by tragedy. Nipsey Hussle disciples saw their #MarathonContinues hashtags and philosophizing become fodder for memes and clownage; that didn’t happen with Kobe. And why it didn’t may just speak to something larger.
It’s an uncomfortable thing, to…