January of 2020 now seems a lifetime away thanks to COVID-19. It was on January 26 Los Angeles was struck with the news that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other lives were lost in a helicopter crash. As the news spread, Angelenos flooded the L.A. Live area to grieve.
Today is August 24, or 8/24: the two numbers Kobe wore during his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. We were introduced to him a child and watched him grow up. Some of us grew up alongside him. Over the years, it became easy for us to see him as a friend or distant cousin despite never meeting the guy. That’s why the loss felt so personal.
Yesterday, August 23, 2020, Bryant would have turned 42. He would have spent the day surrounded by his wife, Vanessa and his daughters, Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri. Angelenos would’ve turned to their favorite social media app to wish him a happy birthday. The last part still occurred. Natalia Bryant posted a sweet message to her father via Instagram and Vanessa wrote a heartbreaking letter on her own account. The hole he left in the hearts of his family so evident as Vanessa writes, “I always wanted to go first so that I selfishly didn’t have to feel this heartache.”
Perhaps it’s for the best that we forget the events of that Sunday in January. It is better to remember people for how they lived rather than how they died. It’s also fitting Kobe’s birthday and Kobe Bryant Day are back-to-back. The impact he made on the city requires more than one day. On these two days, I will always remember the times I spent around my siblings and cousins watching him bring the city five championships. I will remember gathering with countless Angelenos along Figueroa after those victories. And most of all, I will remember and always be inspired by his work ethic, his willingness to forgo sleep to get better, the constant juggling act between his family and his craft, and the hunger to be the best.