There are hundreds of thousands of words in the English language, and here we are trying to find the right ones to describe the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Nine people died including the pilot. Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter Gianna were two of the nine, and their loss shook the sports world to its core. Before the Celtics-Pelicans game on Sunday night, there was a moment of silence followed by both teams taking a 24 second shot clock violation to commemorate number 24 of the former LA Laker. An act that was repeated in other NBA games.
As Celtics fans, many are taught to despise the Lakers and their players. They are the basketball equivalent of the Yankees, but like Red Sox fans deep down had respect for Derek Jeter; Celtics fans had respect for Kobe. After his final game in the Garden in 2016 Kobe credited the Boston fans for how they participated in their own way in the Celtics Lakers rivalry. Bryant referred back to the 2008 Celtics Finals victory as the turning point for his career, which helped mold him into the player he was for two more championship victories. “For the second half of my career, it’s the most important piece. When we lost back in 2008, that was the turn. That was when I said, ‘I have to figure this leadership thing out. I can’t go through this.”
Kobe reignited the Boston-LA rivalry that had been dormant for about a decade with his games at the Garden every season. The black mamba scored 1,097 points against Boston, which is the fourth most in the history of Celtics-Lakers, behind John Havlicek (1,648), Jerry West (1,353) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,280). Kobe was very familiar with the Celtics, playing the green team 44 times, the most that he played against any team in the Eastern Conference. 13 of those games were NBA finals contests, where he was 1-1 against the Celtics.
One thing that makes his passing difficult to those that love the game is the fact that he loved the game and wanted to give back to it in any way he could. ESPN+ started a program last year titled Detail, in which Kobe analyzed a particular player. And through that show, those players took some of the tools he offered. Jayson Tatum, who is in his third year, posted on Instagram shortly after the news was released.
Some arenas changed their lights to purple and gold to honor Kobe Bryant. The TD Garden was no different as for one night, the entire NBA community shared in Lakers fan’s sorrows. As with any passing, stories will be shared and condolences offered. A member of the Bryant family was going to be a New Englander, as Kobe’s daughter Gianna was intent on playing for the UConn Women’s basketball.
It’s hard to find the right words to describe the loss of a key player on a worldwide sports stage. Personally I think Celtics radio announcer said it best. “As Celtics fans, we didn’t think Kobe Bryant could break out hearts one more time. We were wrong.”