Kobe Bryant wasn’t just a former client of Lakers executive Rob Pelinka. As Pelinka described him in his first statement since Bryant and his daughter, Gianna — who was also Pelinka’s goddaughter — died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Kobe was “his best friend.”
His extended thoughts on their loss alternate between beautiful, tragic and hopeful, and are worth reading in their entirety:
On Sunday, I lost my best friend and my sweet goddaughter. With that, there has been an amputation of part of my soul.
Kobe was a force of nature, deep and obsessed with excellence. He was wise, determined, passionate. A visionary beyond measure. A dedicated and loving husband, and a “girl-dad” like no other. When he walked into a room, the energy ignited. He was high voltage, with a motor that had no limits. His mind had an infinite capacity to learn. He was, simply put, the most inspirational athlete of our time. What the world may not know, is that he was also the best friend anyone could ever imagine.
Gigi was pure joy. Her smile brought comfort to any and every occasion. She was brilliant, kind and warm. And, like her dad, when she stepped onto the basketball court, she took on an entirely different nature, and boy could she play. Her basketball destiny was apparent, and the world knew it. She was also an extraordinary, loyal and supportive sister, and a wonderful friend to my children. My son and daughter always left time with Gigi feeling better about life itself. Everything Gigi stood for, I am so proud of.
Maya Angelou once wrote “when great trees fall … lions hunker down in tall grasses.”
What I am daily learning is that after the tragic loss of these nine souls, life on this side of eternity will never be the same. For any of us who knew them, there is an irreplaceable void left behind.
But I am also finding that there is a hope. For now, each new step for me will be full of deep love and prayers, as a heavy sorrow for Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri, and all the families involved, is slowly redeemed into something healed and new. I am coming to realize that nothing can separate any of us from the love and inspiration we’ve received from Kobe and Gianna, nothing at all.
Their lives have shown me that death has no victory. Last Sunday is not the end of the story. It’s just a new beginning. Kobe and Gigi’s legacies will live on – and gain even more power and influence. All of us touched by them will now try to become torch carriers of their legacies. And, while we do that, we can be certain of this: Kobe and Gigi will continue on, forever, playing a joy-filled game of basketball in heaven above.
The note Pelinka ends on is a beautiful one, and there is really no natural way to follow the remarks of someone who is clearly in a ton of pain, even if they’re attempting to look on the bright side.
Losing someone you love is never easy, and losing someone that was like a child to you — and by all accounts, the Pelinkas and the Bryants were incredibly close — has to be a gutting experience. It’s almost impossible to imagine going through this, and then still having to perform at as high-stress a job as being the lead executive for a professional basketball team heading into the trade deadline is.
On a human level, I think I can speak for all of us here in just saying that I hope Pelinka and his family are all right, and that the Lakers and NBA continue to help everyone in this organization as much as they can while they attempt to get through these tragic losses.