The lives of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were dramatically cut short as the two were fatalities in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, whilst traveling to a Mamba camp basketball game. The world was shocked as the news propagated throughout, leading people from all parts of the globe to express their condolences and sympathy, while also remembering Bryant for not only the assassin he was on the basketball court, but also as a loving father and family man. One person to do so was the former Yankee Hall-of-Famer, Derek Jeter.
Many people who found out about the news took to social media to offer their sympathies and eulogize about the great basketball player Kobe Bryant was. Of course, there was nothing wrong with this notion, as he undoubtedly will go down as one of the best there ever was to play the game. However, Jeter took a different approach and decided to pen a letter in The Player’s Tribune offering tribute to who Bryant was as a man and someone who cared so deeply about his family.
— Michael Portman (@MichaelWPortman) January 27, 2020
Jeter and Bryant had been friends for years. After all, they were two of the best players in each of their respective sports, peaking at the same time. So, naturally, they had a lot in common, despite Jeter playing baseball and Bryant, basketball. They also had something bigger in common, something that transcended sports, as a whole, that is, their undying love and care for their families. According to Jeter, Bryant put his family above everything else, and thus, his essay in The Player’s Tribune focused solely on that, not the basketball-related accolades.
The opening statement by Jeter said it all and set the tone for what the heartbreaking essay would share. “All I ever needed to know about Kobe Bryant was this: that throughout our friendship, the most meaningful conversations we had — they were always about family. Put aside one of the all-time great basketball careers for a second. Put aside his famous work ethic, the Mamba mentality, that incredible will to win,” Jeter began.
“I end up thinking about how, here was this guy who was beyond gifted as an athlete, who was obsessed with being a champion, who was known as an absolute assassin with a ball in his hands. And in the moments I got to spend with him? He didn’t really talk about any of that. He cared much more about being a husband to Vanessa and a dad to his girls,” the former Yankee continued.
For Jeter, not only was Sunday a day that will forever be linked with a basketball legend leaving this world too soon, but it will also be the day, at least personally for Jeter, that a friend was lost and a family left without a father, husband, daughter, and sister. That is the part that is affecting Jeter the most.
“Which makes today’s events feel especially cruel — because no one needed less reminding than Kobe. I’ve seen the guy go for 81,” he wrote. “I’ve seen him hit all kinds of buzzer-beaters. I’ve seen him win gold medals and championship rings. But I’ve still never seen him look as happy, in those big moments on the court, as he looked the other day off of it: with an arm around Gigi, sitting courtside.”