The love of the game.

As everyone knows, a helicopter went down on Sunday and the world has lost a basketball legend, his very talented daughter, and seven other lives. I feel for all of their families. Of course, in this tragedy, many people bring up the rape allegations and case against Kobe and downplay his death. And then there’s obviously the people who try to tell others who their heroes should and shouldn’t be. It’s sad some people aren’t open-minded and compassionate enough to understand why so many fans are hurting right now. Well, me being me and seeing the bigger picture, I’m obviously about to tell a story that has nothing to do with Kobe. Because his death is much deeper than that.

Many of my earliest memories involve basketball in one way or another. I don’t really remember a life before basketball. I don’t know when I was first put in a YMCA league, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I was thrown in there at the youngest age they allowed. Started playing AAU ball in 4th or 5th grade. Played for All Ohio Blue- No Limit all the way through high school (along with playing on my middle and high school teams) until I graduated in 2005, and had some teammates come and go that were excellent players; many of them playing in college, and a few have even played pro overseas. A lot of my original teammates didn’t really even play before they were put on the team. It all started as something fun to give some inner city girls a positive, healthy activity to participate in. I grew up loving the sport, which turned into a love-hate relationship once the stakes raised during high school with college on the horizon. I wouldn’t say I was a bad player, but many of my No Limit teammates throughout the years were just THAT much better than me, so I was used to warming the bench. It didn’t bother me at all except for the fact that the head coach and guy who started that team happened to be my dad, and he definitely had high hopes for all of his players, including me.

I won’t bore you with the drama of my high school years and the many struggles in our father-daughter relationship, but I will say that it’s the reason why I started to hate playing a sport that I was once so passionate about. Post-graduation was filled with lots of rebuilding between us.

Fast forward to April 22nd, 2010, the day after dad’s 57th birthday. It was the day of his funeral, after his unexpected death on the 19th. I saw so many of my old teammates, many of whom I hadn’t seen in years. It was good seeing many of the people that I literally grew up with, despite the crappy circumstances. It was the craziest funeral I’ve ever experienced, and not just because he was my own flesh and blood. The ceremony started an hour late due to the long line of people coming to pay their respects. They even had to turn people away from this big church because there was no standing room left and I’m pretty sure we were a bit over the legal capacity of the building. The amount of lives he touched and changed made me incredibly proud to have had the honor of calling him my father.

dadballin
My dad ballin’ way back in the day.

One of my most memorable parts of that day was seeing an old teammate completely break down as soon as she saw him in the casket. My mom had a very strong opinion on this reaction, that she repeatedly brought up for at least the following week. Comments like, “she made a scene like that was her dad or something”, “y’all didn’t act like that”, and “she just wanted some attention” became statements that I just had to brush off. Despite me trying to explain it to her, she didn’t seem to get it… just like the people that don’t get why Kobe’s sudden death is heartbreaking for some.

If you ask some of the girls that were on my team from the very beginning who taught them to play basketball or who is someone that played a huge role in their love of the game, their answer would be ‘Coach B’. Who started that fire in their soul? ‘Big Booty Brink’. Name a person outside of your family that had a huge impact on your life? ‘Coach Brink’. A fair amount of my teammates over the years didn’t have a father figure in their life, and I knew for a fact that this extreme showing of emotions came from a lady who looked up to my dad as if he was her own.

Being in the public eye, Kobe was able to start a fire inside of many kids and adults. He ignited the love for basketball in the lives of so many people. Despite his life behind the scenes and off the court, he showed so much passion, dedication, and hard work that are hard to ignore. Why else would yelling “Kobe!” be such a tradition for many people who are simply throwing away a piece of garbage?

You don’t need to like Kobe. Many people that know me know that I’m not really a fan of LeBron, but I respect him and what he has done to grow the sport, and I realize that he’s a hero to many. It’s not my right to tell someone who can and can’t be their hero, because you don’t know how that person was changed and shaped by another person, or even just a concept that was life changing. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am if my dad didn’t light that match in me, regardless how bright my fire burns for basketball. The game taught me so much about sports, teamwork, and life in general. That’s something that can’t be taken away from anyone, regardless how much others want to downplay this tragic event. We lost the lives of nine people who were in the helicopter solely because of the sport of basketball.

It’s all about the love of the game.

 

 

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