On Sunday, the world tragically lost an icon in Kobe Bryant. Kobe wasn’t just a sports icon but a global icon, The Black Mamba. The world responded in palpable grief. The indestructible icon, dare I say immortal, dead at the age of 41.
I have to confess. I am a long time Boston Celtics fan, along with Western teams from Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. So I’ve never liked Kobe. He broke a lot of dreams with my teams during his Hall of Fame career. I never liked him, but I always feared and respected him.
When notifications buzzed my phone all day Sunday, it shocked me. It stunned me. The human being in me stunned more than the NBA fan. You see, I am the father of a 14 year old daughter. I am a human who once saw myself as immortal, until our family lost three men tragically in two years. Strange how perspectives change in tragedy.
The world expressed similar sentiment through its grief this week. The NBA showed many demonstrations of respect and love. Most players and former player used social media and television to share their shock and grief. Take Shaquille O’Neal’s response.
A few months ago, Shaq lost his sister to cancer. Early on in life, he lost his father. Now, he lost what he refers to as a brother in Kobe Bryant.
Did you hear Shaq’s grief? Did you see it in his face. He is experiencing and expressing several stages; anger, denial, physical pain, lack of sleep, going through motions, survivor’s guilt, and the like. His words sting with stages of grief. Perhaps we can learn from them.
Speaking of his sister’s death, Shaq said, “I work. We laugh. We kid. We joke. Then I get back home and look at reality. She’s gone. It hurts.” Numbness abounds, as he goes through the motions.
When he heard the news of Kobe’s death, he presents expressions of denial and anger, “I snapped. I didn’t want to believe it.” .
Through words of survivor’s guilt and regret, Shaq then said, “We take stuff for granted. I don’t talk enough. We won’t be able to joke at the HOF ceremony. You can’t get those back. I wish I could say something to him again.”
Pay close attention to the next part. Resiliency begins to appear, a tragic experience moving into action and attempts to better oneself, “It changes me. I’m going to do a better job of reaching out to people.”
Lastly, Shaq explains that grief requires help from others to process, even the help of a professional, “People are going to have to get treatment.”
Grief lasts forever, but it continues to shape you and motivate you to become something better if you allow it. We call that process resiliency.
Shaq’s words give us something to consider in our grief, “I wish I could have said one last thing.”
Say the words you need to say to your loved ones. Hug them a little tighter before you say goodbye. Cherish the moments. You, nor the ones you love, are immortal. Cherish them. Cherish yourself.
Even though it’s hard for this Celtics fan to speak well of two Lakers, not learning from them would be a disgrace and a waste. So Kobe, thank you for all the drama through your days in the NBA. Thank you for these lessons in your death. Rest in peace.
For more on grief, read this previous blog.