Something new will happen now, in the weeks and months that followed Monday, when an afternoon of haunting perfection served as the true goodbye to Kobe Bryant.
Youll always remember where you were when you heard Bryant, along with eight others, including his daughter, Gianna, had died in a helicopter accident. Youll always remember how you heard it, whose text or phone call alerted you, what show you were watching when it was interrupted by the breaking news, or where you were when the alert popped up on your phone.
If you watched the ceremony (which is available in its entirety on the FOX Sports YouTube channel), youll always remember where you were, too, when Vanessa Bryant spoke with devastating sweetness of her daughter and husband, and the void in her world that they have left.
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Vanessa Bryant remembers her daughter, Gigi pic.twitter.com/zQt5y7pZAj
— The Association on FOX (@TheAssociation) February 24, 2020
But for even the most ardent of Bryant idolizers, and for everyone else except the close friends and families of the victims, things will change a little. Now, a month has passed. And now that the tear-jerking, emotionally fraught yet profoundly uplifting Staples Center farewell is complete, the pace of how Bryant is remembered wont be the same anymore.
We will remember, to be sure, over and over again. But it wont be like the past month, one where the shock overshadowed so much, even things like Super Bowl week and the NBA All-Star Game, and was a part of virtually every sporting event you can think of. It wont be at the forefront of the news cycle. It wont be like it was, where every fresh day brought new memories recalled, new tributes. It wont be the most common topic of conversation any conversation nor will there be the same communal thread of disbelief.
Because, with this time that has passed, the tributes and the memorial did their job. We can believe it now, though we dont want to.
@Beyonce pays tribute to Kobe and Gigi Bryant with a couple of his favorite songs pic.twitter.com/HIfTfWmtlS
— The Association on FOX (@TheAssociation) February 24, 2020
Bryants loss has provided many lessons. A reminder to live each day to its fullest potential is the most typical one, yet this month just gone has shown us something about how we see the most cherished athletes and what they mean to us.
We sometimes come to believe that we know many celebrities more deeply than we do our families, Dr. Gretchen Kubacky, a leading health psychologist and bereavement counselor, told me. We follow their careers, research their personal histories they feel like extended family. But they are not family and in that way, we are able to grieve more deeply, because of the simultaneous sense of detachment and impossibility. We will never know them, and it allows space for other unfelt grief to bubble up to the surface as well.
And so, the sports world and the wider community will think of Bryant less often than they have been, if only because thinking of Bryant had been so all-consuming before Mondays memorial. Few who follow American sports closely have had a day without him entering their thoughts since it happened.
Michael Jordan helped Vanessa Bryant off the stage after her emotional eulogy. pic.twitter.com/bETfLmtjG6
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) February 24, 2020
That was never going to continue forever, and it wasnt supposed to. There will still be reminders, anniversaries, a coming statue outside Staples. But just as Bryant approached each day, game and challenge with fresh voracity, so too do we move on. And it is okay to do so.
Bryant will never be forgotten, of course. The worst thing about those taken too soon is that all that potential, all those golden years will never come to pass. The only saving grace is that they are frozen in time, remembered at their finest. Bryant at 41 was a man at his true peak, a glorious basketball career in the books, an Oscar collected, a business empire thriving and embracing each moment of #GirlDad fatherhood.
He was remembered with tears on Monday, but also in the fondest terms. Shaquille ONeal spoke with deep grace and inimitable humor about their fascinating relationship, likening himself and Bryant to the Beatles lead duo John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
“I said ‘Kobe, there’s no I in team.’ and he said ‘I know, but there’s an M-E in that m***********'”@shaq tells the funny story of when he really gained respect for Kobe. pic.twitter.com/VW2CjrWyfb
— The Association on FOX (@TheAssociation) February 24, 2020
Many of you know Kobe and I had a very complex relationship throughout the years, ONeal said. Kobe and I pushed one another to play some of the greatest basketball of all time.
And yeah, sometimes like immature kids we argued, we fought. We bantered, insulted each other with offhanded remarks. But make no mistake, that even when folks thought we were on bad terms, when the cameras were turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other and say lets go whoop some (expletive).
Michael Jordan was at his most human, speaking touchingly of how Bryant pestered him for advice so persistently that it broke down his natural resistance. Jordan had tears roll down his face just like when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. There wont be any mocking memes this time.
Watch Michael Jordan’s full speech at Kobe Bryant’s memorial servicehttps://t.co/2JZaiZ2Zcc
— The Association on FOX (@TheAssociation) February 24, 2020
Thousands watched and cried and laughed in the heart of Los Angeles. Millions more did the same on television. Eventually, it had to come to an end. For some, the jokes and anecdotes and stories and appropriateness of the ceremony felt like the lifting of a dark cloud.
It created the sense that it is okay to begin to stop mourning Bryant, and instead to start living in a way he would approve of.
The next chapter in life is just beginning, ONeal added. And now it is time for us to continue your legacy.