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Learning From Loss: On Kobe Bryant and Personal Tragedy

We all see tragedies on a daily basis, and most of the time they never hit very close to home. When one does hit close to home the destruction it can leave in its wake is like nothing you can prepare for. On January 26th, 2020 one of those tragedies hit the NBA universe with the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other victims in a horrific helicopter accident in California.

Learning from Loss: A Reflection on Life Beyond Basketball

Every Day, Tragedy Strikes

While we may not be familiar with the names of the seven other victims personally, they are important too. They were spouses, friends, parents, children, teammates, and even a coach.

The last word sticks out to me like a sore thumb; coach.

Two weeks to the day before Bryant’s passing, at essentially the exact time of day, I found out a former player who I coached for four years tragically passed away as the result of an ATV accident. Another tragedy, but this time it hit very close to home. Coleton Gessner was a former player, both in soccer and basketball. He was a kid that I admired. He was hard-working, dedicated, and never took anyone or anything too seriously. I think the passing of Gessner, and subsequently, the passing of Bryant and the other people on board should be a time to reflect on the lives we are leading.

That morning, Bryant’s family woke up not knowing it would be the last day with their father. Two weeks ago the family and friends of Gessner woke up not knowing they would never see their son, brother, or friend ever again. I think there is a somber lesson to be learned from tragedies like this. We never know how many days we have left with our loved ones. Make the most of every moment you have with those you cherish.

Leaving a Legacy

Keeping memories of lost loved ones is the best way to memorialize them. Everyone in the NBA universe has a fond memory of Kobe Bryant. Maybe you remember him scoring 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. Maybe you remember the alley-oop he threw to Shaquille O’Neal, or maybe you remember all of the times he eviscerated your favorite team. Over the next few days, we will all read, watch, or think about, all of those amazing moments he brought us. This is an important part of losing a figure like Kobe Bryant.

Most people reading this did not know Coleton Gessner, but let me promise you, there are so many fond memories that those of us who did will always cherish. The same goes for everyone else on that helicopter. In times of sadness, those memories are a positive light and in times of joy, they are a friendly reminder that even if a person leaves the Earth they always have places in our hearts and minds.

Often we hear the phrase, “gone too soon”. That is certainly the case in these two stories. On one hand, you have a 41-year-old former athlete who was embarking on a journey that may have actually been more impactful than his time on the court. On the other is the story of an 18-year-old kid with his entire future ahead of him; a future that I can guarantee you would have been tremendously impactful on everyone who crossed paths with him.

They will never get to see their impact play out, but that does not mean they cannot still make an impact on all of us. I hope we can all follow the tremendous examples that people like Bryant, and those you may know personally who have left your lives too soon, have laid out for us.

Cherish the Time You Have

We should cherish the time we have with those we care about. We also should make sure that those we love know how important they are to us. You never know when you may wake up without them, or that they could wake up without you. Lastly, please live your lives to the fullest. It is the biggest lesson that deaths like Gessner’s, or on a more widespread scale Bryant’s, should show us. Every single day is a blessing, so please treat them as such.

Editor’s Note: Though we typically stray from first-person stories at, we also believe it is important to provide a platform for our writers to express their voice through the lens of basketball. We issue condolences to all impacted by this story.

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