28 January, 2020

Kobe Bryant and Complicated Legacies

Kobe Bryant, you have probably heard, died in a helicopter crash today, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and several other people who have not yet been identified. It’s a terrible, heartbreaking tragedy, another reminder that even those who seem iconic are not invincible. It’s all the more tragic that a little girl lost her life. There is such an outpouring of grief for Kobe — as there should be — and I know we are all also thinking of that little girl and her mom and her sisters. What an absolute heartbreak.
I’m not a basketball fan, nor a Kobe fan, but I understand the irrational impact a celebrity death can have on even a distant admirer. We live in what feels like an increasingly cynical culture. That there is something about the young, beautiful, talented and famous that still thrills us is less a sign that we’re shallow and more that we’re still optimistic, still capable of being awed. Kobe was a young man, one of the greatest athletes in the world, someone whose beauty and grace and power on the court was, even for total amateurs like me, still so very obvious and so very stunning. He was only 41, a father, a son, a husband, a friend — outside of his celebrity, he was a person, known and beloved by other people. They are grieving today, and my heart hurts for them.
And also.
You know the and also, don’t you? That Kobe Bryant raped a woman? I know, I know, it was not proven in a court of law. I know, I know, they settled the case, she got a payout — but not before having her real identity splashed all over the tabloids and radio, being hounded by Kobe’s most vicious fans, seeing her whole life crack apart, being tarred as that kind of woman trying to take down such a good, talented, admirable man.
My heart hurt for her then. It hurts for her now.