I don’t know a lot about sports. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know a lot about much of anything, but I know far less about sports than anything else. When our grandson came along, I became convinced that the love of sports had to be passed along in the blood lines. He loves all different sports just as his dad does and just as his PaPaw Ruble did.
Kennedy’s favorite sport of all is basketball. It is impossible to name a player he can’t tell you everything about from the team he plays for to how long he has been playing. The first professional basketball player that Kennedy followed closely was Kobe Bryant. There were times when our grandson would want to talk sports with me. Bless his heart, he soon found out that would be a one-way conversation to say the least.
On a Sunday afternoon when he was about seven or eight years old, he asked, “GranVale, do you know who Kobe Bryant is?” He had a good laugh when I asked him if Kobe lived in Red Bay. “GranVale!,” Kennedy said. “Kobe Bryant plays basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers and he is just about the greatest player ever! You need to know about him.” And for the next hour Kennedy enlightened me on Mr. Bryant and how he could score 40 points in a game and never slow down. He told me more about this superman dressed in a Los Angeles Lakers basketball uniform than I could retain.
When Kobe Bryant retired four years ago, I watched a special ceremony in his honor simply because Kennedy had told me so much about him. As I watched I was happy to learn that it seemed this superstar athlete had not only been an outstanding basketball player of this decade, but he seemed to be a decent person . . . a family man, if you will. That is not a phrase we hear much anymore, but it is still the measure of a man in my book. I found out he helped with a lot of charitable causes, but we didn’t know much about that because he didn’t want what he did publicized.
As I listened, I remembered that I had said to Kennedy the day he was telling me all about Kobe Bryant for the first time that I hoped he was as good a man as he was a basketball player. It seemed that he was. I had not thought of Kobe Bryant since his retirement until this afternoon. A special report came on TV saying he, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven others had been killed in a helicopter crash around noon our time. It seems Kobe Bryant, who was one of the coaches of his daughter’s traveling basketball team, was on the way to a game. With them were three other team members and their parents. A feeling of great sadness washed over me.
Left to mourn this tragedy are Kobe’s wife, who is also the mother of his children, three other daughters, his mother and daddy, legions of friends, and millions of basketball fans such as our grandson. Every TV channel is paying tribute to him. I am still very sad. No matter what our station in life, we all grieve the same. It is a gut-wrenching thing to lose one loved one. I cannot imagine losing a husband and a daughter at the same time.
I am praying for the Bryant family as well as the families of the others who were killed. I don’t know anything about sports, but I do know that prayer is the only thing that can help those who are left to grieve. God bless them all!
LaVale Mills is Publisher Emeritus of The Red Bay News.