On the Loss of Kobe, the Father

kobe bryant family

Rest in Peace, Kobe & Gianna Bryant

This week’s tragedy has obviously hit people, and especially parents in general, extremely hard. As a man, who has become a Dad Influencer over the past few years, I find the loss of Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and the other families on that helicopter just one more sobering reminder of how fragile this whole thing is. Here’s my thoughts on his passing and the humorous story of the time I met him.

I met Kobe years ago when he was a young NBA Superstar… I didn’t like him. He was my arch enemy. I thought he was a ball hog. I hated that style of play.

As a Celtics Fan, I hated Kobe Bryant. A lot. But as a father of two little girls, I LOVED everything he became.

I met Kobe years ago when he was a young NBA Superstar. Neither of us had kids at the time. We had a mutual friend and it was just a random summer pick up game/practice. My friend called me and said,

Larry Bird (who was working for the Pacers at the time) is over here hanging out at the gym. Get over here.”

LIke I said, I’m a big Celtics fan so I sprinted over to meet Larry Bird who was my hero. I was starstruck. He was very nice. We said our hellos and I left him alone. My mission was accomplished. Then my buddy said,

“Kobe’s here too. You want to meet him?”

Meh, I guess. I said sure, but honestly, I didn’t really care. I didn’t like him. He was my arch enemy. I thought he was a ball hog. I hated that style of play. I rooted against him constantly. He played for the Lakers. But whatever, he’s a huge star. I’ll say hi. My friend introduces us.

I say, “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.”

He says, “I know”.

That was it. End of conversation. Hmmmm, weird. I started to chuckle. I’m sorry, what? “I know??”. Where did that just come from?

It was so odd because he wasn’t joking. He was acting gracious and sincere as the words came out of his mouth. He sounded almost apologetic as he said it. I was totally taken aback. It felt like the wrong response. Like when the cab driver to the airport says, “have a good flight”, and you say “you too”, and then catch yourself. But, Kobe meant it. I’m not sure if he says this to everyone?

The funny thing was, he wasn’t lying. Obviously, I’m writing about it years later. It was nice to meet him… FOR ME. Not so much for him. He probably had to do this 100 times a day. At the time, it just made me hate him more. Who the “blank” does this dude think he is?

It’s obvious from the outpouring of grief just how many lives he touched.

Well, I think we all know the answer. He was Kobe. One name. It’s obvious from the outpouring of grief just how many lives he touched. He was one of the most famous people on earth. And not just famous for being famous. He’s one of the best athletes ever. He lived in a fishbowl since he was a young kid. Every word he said, every gesture, scrutinized in a 24 hour news cycle. He probably had little concept what it was like to live like a normal person. I doubt if he ever waited in line. He never once wondered, “Can I afford this?”. Every girl he ever met tried to hook up with him. Every guy he met wanted to be his best friend. Everyone he ever spoke to wanted something from him. He was a living God. Very few people ever have been in those shoes. And even fewer people have navigated it successfully.

Kobe told you from minute one that he was going to be the best. And then he did it. He was pompous and driven. He would grate on people during a meteoric climb to the top of his profession. His opponents hated him. Sometimes his own teammates hated him. But the truth is that he demanded the best from everyone else, the same way he demanded it from himself. The problem is that no one else was capable of giving that much. His laser focus and will to succeed made him a unique individual in a league filled with some of the most talented athletes on earth. Even at the little casual summer practice I met him at, he played with a tenacity above and beyond every other player in the gym. It was intense to watch. In that way, especially, he was on par with Jordan. If they were playing a grade school girl’s team, they still would have destroyed them. Competitive to the max. It was very impressive.

We get so caught up in our team, country, tribe, race, religion, creed, political party… that we lose sight of the big picture. We’re all in this together.

At the time, I was indifferent. I’m sure I made a joke about it. I still thought in terms of Celtics vs. Lakers. Totally self involved. But now I realize how meaningless all of that was. And it’s not just in sports either. We get so caught up in our team, country, tribe, race, religion, creed, political party… that we lose sight of the big picture. That at the bottom of all of those stupid thoughts of “us vs them”, we’re all just families trying to make a better life for our children. We’re all in this together. And the sooner we give of ourselves, the better we all become.

What’s even more impressive to me now about Kobe is that he was able to use that same quest for excellence and laser type focus to become an amazing father and family man. And what he helped me remember personally, is to not judge someone by the color of his “uniform” but by the content of his character. And for that, he is a true example to me and to all parents everywhere. I still think he should have passed the ball more when he played, but when it comes to being a great loving Dad, Kobe is a first ballot hall of famer and a true hero to me. I only hope more of us can live up to his example as a father. His loss will be felt for years to come.

kobe and gianna bryant

My deepest condolences to all the families who were affected by this unfathomable tragedy. Hopefully, it will inspire us all to remember to strive to be the best we can be, that family is everything, and to get busy living, because this is all temporary.

With much love,
Jamie Kaler
January 28, 2020

Jamie Kaler

Jamie Kaler

An accomplished actor, comic, host, voice-over artist, and radio personality, Jamie Kaler is best known for his starring role as “Mike” on the hit TBS show, My Boys. His prolific acting career includes appearances on Friends, Will and Grace, How I Met Your Mother, Parenthood, and King of Queens, as well as numerous films and over 150 commercials. He is currently the host of America: Facts vs. Fiction on the American Heroes Channel, which is entering it’s third season, and has his own radio show on SiriusXM named Kaler. As a voice-over artist he is the voice of the "Bloopers Host” on the cult classic Robot Chicken and has been the national spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Originally from New Hampshire, Jamie graduated from Boston University on an NROTC scholarship and served as an officer in the U.S. Navy before beginning his career as a performer. As a comedian he was one of the new faces at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and has appeared on Chelsea Lately, The Late Late Show, Live at Gotham, Mock-pocalypse, and World’s Dumbest.

When not working, he is obeying every command of his wife, Kate, and two daughters, Hannah and Claire.

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