To be honest I wasn’t sure how to start this piece. I ran through my head probably seven or eight different introductions that I thought would work but none of them felt right. Every single one I tried whether it be with a quote or a story, none of them felt sincere.
I knew since the crushing news came across the wire on Sunday that I wanted to write something, but I wasn’t sure what. I knew when he passed there was a story to tell but I wasn’t sure what the angle was that made sense for me.
So I spent a few days thinking about it. For the last three days I sat on the horrifying tragedy that shocked the sports world this last week and I tried to figure out why I was so bothered by it. Why the passing of a man like Kobe impacted me so much.
For a while, I thought it was solely because I was sad to see such a legend of the game go so early. I figured my brain just couldn’t grasp the loss of an immortal like him being gone so quickly from my life. But that didn’t feel right. It felt bigger than just that. His death felt like it was more than just seeing a hero go.
I promise this is related to Iowa State in a capacity, but I need to set the table before dinner can be served. There needs to be some context out there before the entirety of the picture can be seen.
Yes. The loss of anyone on a cultural scale like Kobe is a blow to anyone who cares about sports. It is devastating on levels that a lot of us cannot comprehend or even begin to try and unpack. But hopefully what I’m about to say now will help with breaking down the feelings we all had and why it was so significant.
See for a lot of folk, his sudden and untimely death and our reactions to it wasn’t just about losing someone we cared about or saw as a hero. It wasn’t just about seeing a man or a legend we had grown with or seen dominate for so long, it wasn’t about knowing he was finally gone. It was about the feelings he brought about it.
Kobe had so many moments in his life that people can point to and remember exactly where they were. Whether that was his 81 point game against Toronto, his first title in 2000, the culmination of his time with Shaq at the end of the three-peat in 2002, or his back to back performances in the 2009 and 2010 Finals. He was a five-time champion and arguably the closest thing to Michael Jordan a lot of people would ever see.
Speaking for a large following of basketball fandom here, but we all have Kobe moments that we can recall from childhood, that we can draw on and remember the people around us and where we were when we witnessed greatness.
So how does that relate to Iowa State?
Well I guess that’s a bit of a complicated question and it’s one I hope to bring full circle here with why I felt so terrible about his passing.
We all have moments in our lives where we can pin point those exact feelings I described above. We all have memories of sporting events or pivotal hours we can recall from childhood, adolescence and even adulthood that formed who we are now.
For me that moment was in March of 2014. I was living in South Dakota at the time and came back to Omaha on an extended weekend to spend some time with my friends here. Little did I know, though, that within that weekend my life would take a 180.
It was on a Saturday morning, March 8th to be exact that I walked into a bar downtown to watch Iowa State take on Oklahoma State. I had been out the night before and was rolling off a bit of a hangover when I ordered my first beer and sat waiting for the tip off of that game.
The biggest part of the story however is that I was on a first date. A date that changed my life for quite a while and transformed me into who I became later on in life.
I can still remember every beer I ordered while watching that game. I can still remember every topic that the woman I was on the date with talked about. I can still recall the feeling of watching that game on the smallest TV in the bar and being the only person cheering.
I can still remember the feeling of watching Naz burying that three at the end of regulation to put the game into over time. I still remember the two of us, me and that woman who I would spend two years of my life with, bonding over our mutual love for basketball and The Notorious B.I.G. Her cheering on Iowa State as I shit talked all over her love for Creighton.
Even almost six years later, I can still remember the joy I felt watching Iowa State close the game out in over time and won by four. I still remember walking out of the bar that day, the hug she would give me and knowing that not only had my life changed but also that day, how I felt a little bigger, a little more bold and a little more confident.
Without getting too deep into the weeds of what happened after that first date, it doesn’t take away from that moment. Nothing that happens for the rest of my life will ever remove those emotions or take away from what happened in that two and a half hours of watching that game.
That’s what I felt as I mourned with those being upset so much over Kobe’s death. I felt feelings of transportation much like those who followed him in the same way I follow Iowa State.
It isn’t any surprise for those of you who know me that I’m very open about my love for basketball or Iowa State sports in general. I live and die with how they perform and their outcomes in life - I get that from my dad.
It’s why sports matter. They give us the ability to go from where we are currently in life to a better time, to feel something that we hadn’t visited in a long time. To unlock a part of ourselves that hadn’t been seen in a while.
I suppose in a way sports give us some sense of catharsis. They afford us an ability to try and sort out the things we’re feeling without recognizing the gravity of the situation until after the fact. Memories of moments of greatness only come so often and it’s important to remember them the same way you do the smell of fresh cut grass when playing catch with your dad or the three on three games at your local court when you were a teenager.
So for die hard Kobe fans, I get it. I understand that loss of someone that elicits those things. I may write for a blog solely focused on just one school in particular but I understand what you guys were going through in the sense of trying to manage those emotions flooding back to you. It makes sense because I felt it too.
I just hope this helps in some way of grasping why people were so sad.
Love you guys.