Column: The lesson of losing Kobe and GiGi Bryant should be give people their flowers while they’re still here

Photo Credit: Michael Owen Baker/AP

You never know what you have until it’s gone.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Protect and love those you have that love for at all costs.

January 26, 2020 is a day that will be remembered as one of the saddest and most tragic days in sports history. None of us could believe that an international icon inside and outside of sports in Kobe Bryant had left us at the young age of 41.

We all thought it was a fake. We were all hoping it was a fake, especially when it was known that one of his daughters in Gianna, the rising basketball “Mambacita” was on the helicopter with him.

It was real … and it hit too real for many of us.

This was not simply another tragic tale of a celebrity that left us way too early. This is on the level of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince, Nipsey Hussle and even, long before any of those, Dale Earnhardt.

You did not have to know Kobe personally to have been affected by his untimely demise. For many of us that are simply now making our marks in the sports industry, he was part of our childhood. In his days, the Lakers were on national television regularly. How many of us would look forward to coming home from school, then turning on our televisions to see how many points he’d drop on a given night.

How many of us would ball up a sheet of paper, then yell “Kobe!” as we swished it into our trash cans. How many young girls and boys in Los Angeles, Southern California, across the country and around the world picked up a basketball and practiced their fadeaways, dunks and free throws (and defensive footwork) because they emulated their games after him.

It got us to thinking – while we give these tributes to those we idolize and those we love when they leave us (as we all have our times), the overarching lesson should be to appreciate those special people in our lives while they are still here.

Just as some of us may have taken the Bryants for granted and just as some of us may take some of our pop culture, athletic and political favorites for granted, we may also be taking some of our own loved ones we know on a first name basis for granted.

Think about what the city of Los Angeles has had to endure in the last year and change. Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant – iconic figures that represented the grit, determination and diversity of Angelenos from all creeds, colors and backgrounds – gone way too soon.

Think about what the basketball community has had to endure in the month of January alone. This comes only a few weeks after David Stern, a staunch women’s basketball advocate in his own right as was Kobe, left us after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

When was the last time you told those special someones in your life that you love them? Those special someones do not even have to be family members. They could be close friends, colleagues or anyone that you have any scintilla of a connection to.

In today’s fast-paced business-driven society, we are constantly told (and are telling ourselves) that we are slacking off if we are not being as productive professionally as possible. What those same individuals fail to tell you is that they too have families and friends that they wish they could spend more time with.

In the end, it is those that are with us every step of the way that we should acknowledge.

Those plans you and family or friends may have been planning? Plan them. That trip you and a few others in your inner circle always wanted to go on? Take that trip. What about those individuals that you may not have spoken to in a few years? Call or text them. See how they are doing and maybe even plan to see them soon.

It is as every bit as important to do these things and give them your all as anything else in life. That’s what Kobe did, especially at basketball. He was fierce, driven and (most of all) confident. Yes, he had his flaws and transgressions and was not perfect, but he evolved into a man through the game and was poised to evolve into a global ambassador inside and outside of the sport after his jersey(s) were retired.

More than that – he was a family man. You can tell through the love he had for his daughters and his wife, Vanessa. That was never something he took for granted as a father and a husband.

Let that be a lesson for all of us as we try to wrap our heads around this tragic loss. Love what you do, do what you love and love those who mean the most to you in your life.

That’s pure Mamba Mentality.

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