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Dear Kobe: One Year Later

Dear Kobe,

It’s been one year since your passing along with your daughter Gigi and seven other innocent souls. And a lot has happened since then. Things that haven’t worked out for not just the United States but the whole world. It was like your death was a bad sign that the year 2020 was going to be bad. But here’s a brief summary of the major things that changed this world last year.

First, the global COVID-19 pandemic happened that we’re all still currently dealing with. Unfortunately, it’s taken the world longer than it should to have this pandemic resolved. Maybe you can talk to God or whoever you’re with, wherever you are, to make this situation better as soon as possible.

Then there were the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many, countless innocent Black lives that were lost last year. The problem with systemic racism still existed even with a global pandemic threatening us. Police brutality is still prevalent with peaceful protestors being attacked and injured by law enforcement during protests.  

But this wasn’t all bad. The rise of Black Lives Matter protests came up again but this year felt different. People that have stayed silent on this issue spoke out against racial injustice and still continue to speak out. Major sports leagues boycotted games in light of the Jacob Blake shooting. And the NBA put the words “Black Lives Matter” on center court during the return to play and playoffs last season. There’s so much more that happened regarding this subject but this was just an overview.

There was also an election year and it showed how divided this country really is just from the results. Though the voter turnout this election year was higher than ever with both candidates having more than 70 million votes. But with a new president in Joe Biden in office, all we can hope for is unity for this country. And we need that now more than ever.

Which brings me back to you. Not only were you the man of Los Angeles but the glue that stuck everything together even in the toughest of times. In the words of Magic Johnson, “We need you right now. When I look into this audience, there’s all race of people come together, cheered you on for 20 years. And this country needs to come together. And you were able to bring us all together as a city in Los Angeles for 20 years!”

You were always soft spoken and were never public like LeBron James about any of the issues this society faces today. However, you were willing to voice your opinion when you were asked about it which is something I admired so much about you.

I don’t want to end this letter on a somber note though I can still remember that tragic day. I want to end this letter about your jersey retirement speech and how that’s got me through these challenging times. Especially the last part of your speech which gets to me every time because it’s something I can relate to being relatively close to Natalia’s age.

I just hoped that this speech wouldn’t be your last. You still had your Hall of Fame speech to write up but those words will never be heard through you.

You mentioned the media and fans and how they pushed you to be better even when you wanted to give up. The expectations people had of you as a basketball player was your fuel and fire to show that you are the greatest to ever play the game. I put expectations on myself as does everybody on what things to do next in life. Right now, it’s hard to find a job through these rough times but I know in due time I will have reached something greater than I dreamed of.

Also, it could’ve been easier for you to leave Los Angeles and gone to Chicago when you were a free agent. But you stayed with the Lakers because the late great Dr. Jerry Buss believed and kept believing in the “skinny old kid from Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia”.

Finally, your speech to your family. Your wife, Vanessa, motivated you by showing you a “row of retired jerseys” from many great legends of the game. And you knew then that you “had to turn it up.” But it would be your speech to your daughters that hits me the most. I’ll let your words speak for itself:

“You know I hope that tonight is not — you guys know that, you know, if you do the work, you work hard enough dreams come true. You know that we all know that. But hopefully what you get from tonight is the understanding that those times when you get up early and you work hard. Those times when you stay up late and work hard; those times when you don’t feel like working. You’re too tired and you don’t want to push yourself but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. That’s the dream. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

And if you guys can understand that then what you’ll see happen is that you won’t accomplish your dreams. Your dreams won’t come true. Something greater will. And if you guys can understand that then I’m doing my job as a father.”

As I continue my journey to find myself in this world, I will always be inspired by you and remember that “failure is a nonexistent concept”. We miss you always and I will always miss you, Gigi and your seven friends and colleagues. Thank you Kobe Bean Bryant.

Sincerely,

Andre Paraiso

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