I literally had no idea I would be writing this column until about five minutes before my fingers started pounding the keys, but as is so often the case in the news business, things happen quick and often change.
It was the news of the passing of Kobe Bryant that sparked me to change my thought process. To clear the record, I am not a fan of the NBA. Nothing against those who are, but the sport has never sparked a great interest. I still appreciate the athletes and what they mean to those who follow them.
Such was the case with Kobe — in my personal column I like to use first names when appropriate and it certainly is here. Like Michael Jordan before him, Kobe was the greatest player of his generation.
Kobe played in the era when high school students could move directly to the NBA. He did so and immediately made an impact against athletes much older than he was. He became a household name even for those who were not basketball fans.
Talent like Kobe’s does not come along often. When it does, it gets people’s attention. Kobe will be missed by millions. Thousands of children, like those now playing in front of my home, pretended to be Kobe.
They wore Kobe jerseys as they went about their daily lives.
As a middle school teacher, I appreciate what these role models mean to our children. Youth who don’t have role models at home find them in the world of sports or entertainment.
Kobe’s death makes me reflect on others who have left us much too soon.
Payne Stewart comes to mind. He also died in a horrific air accident in the prime of his life.
His plane crashed only months after his historic win on nearby Pinehurst No. 2. He left the sports world in a state of shock. That same feeling will no doubt spread across the country and the world as Kobe’s death becomes known.
It is not only in the world of sports where tragedy gains our attention. In the music world icons like Elvis, again no last name necessary, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston are three examples of stars whose life ended much too soon.
In all of those cases, it was not the natural progression of life that ended their life. They died as a result of the high pressure, high stress and high expectations of their chosen field. That was not the case with Kobe, but his death is equally as tragic.
President Barack Obama said in a Tweet that part of the sadness of Kobe’s death is the work he would have done in the future. He was making an impact already, as he was on his way to coach his daughter’s basketball team when he died.
Perhaps that is the saddest thing when icons like Kobe pass too soon. Their real impact may never be truly realized.
Rest in peace Kobe. As the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said this afternoon, go with God.
Tom Woerner is a former reporter with The Daily Record and editor of the Harnett County News. He can be reached at email@example.com.