By FORMER SENATOR ATTY. JOEY LINA
Waking up to the tragic news that the legendary Kobe Bryant is gone was truly jolting, and I’m quite sure the shock wave that hit me reverberated around the world among millions of basketball fans.
The untimely demise of one of the greatest NBA players of all time, who perished yesterday at age 41 in a helicopter crash on a California hillside where his teenage daughter Gianna and seven others with him were also killed, is certainly distressing news to his countless Filipino fans in our basketball-crazy country.
Kobe’s uncanny shooting ability and his ferocity in many unforgettable NBA games ushered in a global following that witnessed many of the most awesome and uplifting moments the game of basketball has ever given the world.
“There were spectacular nights but nothing topped his 81-point effort against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006, a mark surpassed only by Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962,” according to the latest Agence France-Presse (AFP) report describing the prowess
of the NBA legend.
“Bryant scored 65 points in a 2007 win over Portland, then followed with 50 points against Minnesota, 60 at Memphis, and 50 more against New Orleans — the third-longest run of 50-point games in NBA history behind two from Chamberlain,” the AFP said. “Some say Bryant saved the best for last, scoring a league season-high 60 points against Utah in his final NBA game in 2016, becoming the oldest player in league history to crack that milestone at age 37.”
In his breathtaking journey to five NBA championships, Kobe accumulated 33,643 points, 7,047 rebounds, and 6,306 assists over 1,346 career games – a truly incredible feat his Filipino fans can really be proud of.
And among the games were some of the most inspiring stories of basketball – how faith, determination, tenacity, and toughness can bring about redemption despite the many injuries Kobe had to struggle with, especially during the last few years before he retired in 2016.
Of course, his journey to greatness was not at all easy, especially at the start of his career. In Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Western Conference Finals at Utah, Kobe unleashed four air balls in the late stages of a 98-93 loss. Such performance could have ruined many promising players. Yet after that game, he went to a basketball court to practice his jumpers continuously until the sun rose the next morning.
His grim determination to be among the best players of all time undoubtedly inspired many of his fans to take up basketball. And it won’t be surprising if many others who looked up to him also took up sports or any other physical activities as well.
As chairman of the Senate Youth and Sports Committee in the late ’80s and early ’90s when I was then the nation’s youngest senator, I have always believed that sports is vital and anyone who inspires people to engage in sports is vital to society.
So vital indeed are sports or any other physical activities that its lack can result in serious consequences to one’s health. Around 2 million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as it warned that “a sedentary lifestyle could very well be among the 10 leading causes of death and disability” throughout the world.
For inspiring people, Kobe was truly a champion. And his being a champion extended beyond the basketball court and even after his retirement as professional athlete. Kobe established a charity foundation with his wife Vanessa “to improve the lives of youth and families in need, both domestically and globally.”
Asked about their charity work in a visit to a children’s hospital in 2006, Kobe said: “It’s a blessing because you have an opportunity to do something like this beyond basketball… We all have God-given gifts and abilities. To be able to do something like this creates a sense of purpose. It’s more than just playing basketball… it’s kind of using it for a greater good.”
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