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I won’t sit here and pretend that I had any kind of special relationship as a fan with Kobe Bryant. I remember growing up watching Michael Jordan and deciding that there was no way in my lifetime that I’d see another basketball player better than him. Kobe was the first person that made me think “dang, I might be wrong”. For the record, speaking purely of basketball, I think Michael still has the edge. LeBron could get close but I think he’ll run out of time.

But today, none of that matters. In fact the basketball, the game, the records, the rankings…none of it matters. As sad as I am for Kobe’s family, his young daughter that was with him, and those that survive him, I can’t help but feel confused about why I feel the way I do right now. This weird shock/sadness for a guy I’ve never met, somehow feels different just knowing that I’m sharing it with people all over the world.

But it still feels confusing. I’ve received other bad news recently, about people I actually know. A friend of mine, David, passed away suddenly about a month ago. There have been many other people, family and friends that have passed or received a difficult diagnosis recently.  These are people that I know way better, or even see and interact with on a regular basis. When I heard the news of my family and friends, of course I felt an even deeper sadness or shock. But, how does this news of Kobe somehow feel like it’s similarly significant?

Life is all about connections. Some bring you joy, and some bring you pain. Both are so necessary.

Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Kobe and there’s some childhood attachment. Maybe it’s just because he’s famous. In this very moment, I think it’s something more important about connections. I feel connected to my family, and friends who read the same stuff on social media, saw the same breaking news or heard about Kobe at or around the same time as me. Those connections are so powerful and are one of the most powerful benefits of being human. Life is all about connections. Some bring you joy, and some bring you pain. Both are so necessary.

Like I said in the beginning, I didn’t know Kobe more than any other casual basketball fan, and while he may have had his flaws – as we all do – I know that he also did plenty of good and clearly a lot of people cared about him. I’ll certainly never forget his tenacity and consistent pursuit of perfection and victory. So, I’ll take the opportunity to say “thanks” to Kobe. Thanks for an entertaining career, the good you brought to the world and the reminder of how important connections are. RIP Mamba.