The Death of Kobe Bryant: Heroics vs. Talent

By Olivia Pan ‘20
Chief Opinions Editor

On January 26, 2020, basketball legend Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter accident along with his thirteen year old daughter, Gianna, and seven other individuals who were also on board at the time. All nine individuals were travelling to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. 

In recent days, the only major coverage of this tragic accident has revolved around the deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter. However, we rarely heard about the seven other individuals who lost their lives that day. In fact, they’re barely mentioned or discussed, as their deaths are so overshadowed by the mega celebrity status that was attached to merely one of the individuals on board. The truth is, Kobe Bryant was not the only person who lost his life that day, and we shouldn’t forget that. Additionally, this helicopter was given special clearance to fly that day, even though weather conditions proved treacherous. I think we all know that this helicopter was given the special allowance to fly, because of the celebrity who was on board. 

Picture courtesy of deadline.com

And of course, there has been controversy over even the slightest mentioning of the 2003 rape allegation Bryant faced and was arrested for. The criminal charges were later dropped after the accuser declined to testify in court, and. Bryant later settled with the accuser, after the accuser filed a civil lawsuit against him. CBS broadcaster, Gayle King, is now receiving death threats, after a brief clip of an interview she recently conducted with former WNBA player Lisa Leslie was posted online. In this clip, King asks Leslie about the rape allegation. The fact that King is now receiving backlash and death threats for posing an educated and honest question within the context of a lengthy and deeply layered interview, is preposterous and deeply troubling. Kobe Bryant was an extremely talented athlete, and lived a public life which afforded him many perks of fame, not limited to people’s worship of him. The fact that he died an untimely death at a young age is tragic. It does not make him a hero, saint, or above reproach. For a respected journalist such as Gayle King to ask an intelligent question about the man’s legacy, with regard to serious criminal charges in his past, is simply her doing her job.  The fact that she asked the question is not troubling. What is troubling is the fanatic, celebrity-worshiping mania that results in her getting death threats, and the fact that people choose to blindly worship an athlete, albeit a very famous athlete. This indicates that something is very amiss in our culture.  

The truth of the matter is that most of us do not know what kind of person Kobe Bryant was, and we should not shut our minds to events that could possibly tarnish his sports legacy. That is not the kind of mindset I want to hold. I have never been one to worship celebrities, as I like to look for my heroes a little closer to home. Too many people in this Kardashian-Jenner obsessed, pro-sports, movie star, and often vapid culture, attribute all manner of heroics to famous people who are just people, as talented or famous as they might be. I don’t negate that Kobe Bryant was a talented athlete, family man, and a good father by many accounts. However, athletic ability does not make you a hero, just as beauty, acting ability, or money doesn’t either. If you need a hero, look around your community, your family, and your own little corner of the world. I assure you that you know some. Some of us, if we are lucky and self- aware, know many heroes.  They may not be as glamorous or well-known or as good looking as celebrities, but they are heroes nonetheless. 

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