The week that Kobe Bryant died, I was in the emergency room thinking I was going too.
I didn’t, of course. I just had a cholecystitis, which in my case was gallbladder inflammation caused by gallstones and led to the worst nausea, vomiting and pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’d love to say I handled it with Mamba Mentality, gritted my teeth and blogged through it, but that would be too tidy of a narrative tie. I instead remember deliriously screaming for more morphine as the nurse said they’d already given me the highest dose they had ever personally given. For context, a second nurse said her experience with the same conditions was worse than when she went through childbirth, something I’m definitely going to bring up to my wife when I join Kobe as a proud #girldad someday.
In short, I certainly thought it was at least the worst pain I’d experience that week. I was wrong.
I will never forget the leather couch I was sitting on in my apartment on that gloomy Sunday. All of us surely remember exactly where we were when we heard that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others were gone. In this community, we’ll probably never forget. I don’t know if that pain has ever fully processed, and it’s why I think I’m struggling to string together any meaningful thoughts to tidily wrap up what it all means. Because we all want it to mean something, right?
Maybe it’s that we all used the lessons Bryant taught us in different ways this year, to try and focus on controlling what we can control to make it through a calendar year that started off horribly and somehow only got way, way worse. I know that Bryant’s words about Mamba Mentality, and dedicating yourself to whatever your craft is rang in my head as I tried to create as good of work as I could during a pandemic that was the sum of my worst fears. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I tried.
Or maybe the lesson is even more existential. Maybe it’s fitting that the whole world fell apart after it lost its greatest control freak. But all of these feel like a stretch, like trying too hard to channel one’s inner Kobe and toss up a shot at finding some meaning from this loss over the arms of multiple defenders when we should just pass on the attempt.
But hey, I grew up watching Kobe. I had to try.
It’s also possible that all this just hasn’t processed. I thought I was exhausted from this year before, and that was before all our social media timelines were filled with grief porn trying to milk the death of a sports icon and children for retweets and engagement. As much as some of us are ready to try and move on or celebrate Kobe, the shamelessness of some of these ploys still doesn’t sit right. The fact that the unfathomably strong Vanessa Bryant felt she had to publicly and preemptively ask the media to not scar her family further on this somber day says something about how irresponsibly much of this has all been handled to this point.
So maybe that’s why I am struggling for something meaningful to say that hasn’t already been said, why I feel like I can’t write anything good and new on this, with some never-thought-of angle on the man known as The Black Mamba, or his tragic passing a year ago. Maybe it’s all been said already. Maybe that’s why I keep thinking back to that day in the ER: There just isn’t enough salve to numb this pain. Whatever the reason for it though, I don’t have some profound way to end this year full of sorrow. Sometimes things just end without a proper conclusion.
If you would like to read our favorite stories remembering Kobe this week, you can do so here, and 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.