Of all the people in the Los Angeles Lakers organization, it’s safe to guess that team governor Jeanie Buss was among the closest to Kobe Bryant and his family. She’s known Bryant since he was just a 17-year-old, and watched him develop into a 41-year-old husband, and father to four daughters.
When Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, perished along with seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday, the entire Lakers organization was rocked by the loss. While the thoughts of various members of the organization have begun to filter out in the intervening days, Buss (completely understandably) remained silent publicly, in mourning over the tragedy along with the rest of the world.
On Thursday morning, Buss broke that silence, and did so with a touching and beautiful story about how Kobe and Gianna once helped her mourn the loss of her own father, legendary Lakers owner Jerry Buss. She shared this memory alongside a photo of her with the Bryant family, and a commitment that she and Lakers fans will “heal together, love together and win TOGETHER.”
The whole thing is worth reading in its entirety below:
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Kobe, I don’t know how to express what you mean to me, my family and the Los Angeles Lakers. My father loved you like a son, which makes us family. When you invited me to lunch shortly after my father passed away, I was struggling to find motivation and purpose. Kobe, you brought Gianna with you to spend some time with me. You explained that you wanted to show her that women can be leaders in the NBA, just like the men. At first, it seemed like an action of a devoted father setting an example for his daughter. But in actuality – and I am positively sure you knew EXACTLY what you were doing – what you did was give me the inspiration and strength I was searching for. I reflect on that day often and it makes me smile and it makes me strong. I call on that memory whenever I feel down and need a bit of courage. For everything you did on the court that filled me with so much joy and love, for all the lives you changed through basketball itself, it was that day with Gigi that reignited my drive and determination. Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri - I am so sorry for your loss. We are grateful to have you in our lives and we will always be here for you. To the families that also lost loved ones on Sunday, the entire Laker family mourns with you. Laker Nation - we are one family grieving the loss of people we all loved dearly. We will mourn together, cry together but we will also heal together, love together and win TOGETHER. We love you. : : : To learn more about how you can help the families affected by this tragedy go to MambaOnThree.org and to further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports visit MambaSportsFoundation.org #peace #love #joy #family #Mamba #Mambacita #2 #8 #24 : : Picture taken in February 2016 on the way to #NBAAllStar game in #Toronto
Those were strong, beautiful and heartbreaking words from Buss, and it’s hard not to have endless respect for her and Vanessa for sharing their thoughts with a public that they don’t owe them to.
Grieving is hard enough on its own, and it has to be even more difficult under a spotlight. All any of us can do is continue to support anyone that shares their grief right now, and band together as a community to try and get through a tragic loss that has hit everyone involved with this team really hard.
If you’d like to help the families affected by this tragedy, you can do so here. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.