Too Soon


They are few and far between – but they are the moments…we will never forget. You can count them on one hand and depending on your age – you can remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the awful news…

JFK assassinated…Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy…also shot dead. The Challenger explosion. The day the Twin Towers fell and for sports fans, the moments when tragedy ended the lives of world class athletes. Plan crashes that killed Roberto Clemente in 1971, Thurman Munson in 1979 and yesterday Kobe Bryant.

It’s too early to know for sure what went wrong, but it appeared the pilot of that doomed Sikorsky helicopter…flying too low…in dense fog…had no way to see the Calabasas elevation ahead…slamming into the terrain at nearly 200 miles per hour.

There is so much irony…in the deaths of all 9 aboard. Kobe Bryant loves to fly, and a rented chopper was his preferred way of beating the traffic in congested L.A….He was also a family man…a generous man who gave 6 fellow coaches and teen players a ride back from a girl’s travel team basketball tournament. It was the “Mamba” tournament…the name derived from Kobe’s nickname…Black Mamba. Bryant dies just hours after another Laker, Lebron James, would pass him as the NBA’s 3rd leading scorer.

How good was Kobe Bryant? So good the Lakers plucked him from a suburban Philadelphia High School, becoming the youngest man to play in the NBA. So good…he was an All Star 17 out of the 20 NBA seasons. So good…he led the Lakers to 5 NBA titles. Off the court, there were other numbers. 1 for the Oscar he collected for producing a basketball documentary. 200 for the number od wishing Kobe Bryant granted to children in the Make a Wish program. Millions…the number of NBA fans who adored him…and perhaps booed him…while secretly wishing he were on their team. And 41…the incredibly young age at which this talented athlete, mentor, role model and American icon…stepped out this life. Much too soon.