Trash-talk Toronto Raptors: Remembering Kobe Bryant

Welcome back to another edition of Trash-talk Toronto Raptors! Here we will talk about everything about the Toronto Raptors except… basketball.

Well to be perfectly honest, we are not going to talk about the Toronto Raptors or their chicanery this week. Yes, they are certainly in the middle of an awesome win streak, currently sitting at eight games in a row, and are in sole possession of the Eastern Conference’s second seed.

But, tragedy struck the world on Sunday when Kobe Bryant and his daughter were among the victims of a helicopter crash. Since then, various teams have taken turns paying their respects by taking shot clock violations or backcourt violations to start the game. The Raptors played the Spurs on Sunday and they each took shot clock violations to start the game.

Since then, there’s been an outpouring of love for the former basketball superstar. The guys from the TNT pregame show discussed their thoughts and feelings for an hour, Elle Duncan of ESPN talked of him being a proud girl dad, and even Jimmy Kimmel dedicated an entire show to him.

To say that he was an icon perhaps sells him short of what he achieved. If there’s anything that the sudden passing did accomplish then it was — in a word — immortality.

Yet, I wanted to showcase a few of the tributes and stories that have come out since Kobe’s passing that illuminate his character and his legendary status.

First, I have never seen so many people starting to change their jersey numbers.

I am sure that this is just the beginning of numbers being changed and it must be noted that the Dallas Mavericks also released a statement saying that no other Maverick would wear the number 24 again.

Some players are considering wearing the numbers to also pay tribute to Kobe, which I believe is also a perfectly good way to keep someone’s memory alive.

That said, the sudden changes are a first that I can recall and it just goes to show you the impact he had across generations.

Lastly, however, perhaps the coolest homage was from the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Team, who placed a bouquet and a number two jersey — Gianna Bryant’s number — on the UConn bench before a game.

Gianna wanted to be a Husky and now she will have posthumously lived out her dream.

Of course, there were humorous stories shared about Kobe, too. For instance, this story from Lou Williams, now on the LA Clippers, perfectly defined the fierce competitiveness of Kobe.

This, of course, is along the same lines of the dogged stories we’ve heard about Kobe. There was the time he called Dwight Howard and company “soft as Charmin” and another time he elbowed Sasha Vujacic in practice.

That fire took Kobe from exemplary basketball player to legend.

But as great as Kobe was on the basketball court — and believe me as someone who rooted against him for all the years of his career, he was truly spectacular — I cannot help but think about the time that he lost with his family and the grief that must be plaguing them to lose two stalwarts of the family.

Kobe was 41 years old when he passed; 20 of those 41 years were spent bouncing from city to city, from practice to game, from gym to gym in pursuit of basketball immortality, which of course, he did achieve.

But at that time, his family had to sacrifice a lot for him to get there. And, for as much as we want Kobe to be a mythological icon, he proved that he was a man capable of mistakes — just like us — in 2003 when he was accused of rape and he subsequently settled those proceedings with the accuser out of court.

Yet, what is truly grueling and maddening is the loss of time with his family. After just under four years of life outside of the NBA, he could finally be the man and the father that he needed to be to his wife and daughters. With his knack for bringing out the best in himself, he undoubtedly would have held himself to the highest of standards in those categories.

Of course, Kobe’s legacy is complicated and grey; the mishaps of his career coincide with the highlights. We cannot talk of Kobe without the accomplishments nor can we ignore his checkered past. We can mourn his loss, yet understand that he wasn’t always in the right. We can be sad for his family and we can hold space for victims of sexual assault.

And yet, the truest tragedy is he was just beginning to repay his debts to those he was indebted: his family. Now, with his life tragically cut short, he’ll never get to pay them back.

For Vanessa and his other young daughters, they’ll have to go on wondering what they could have achieved as a family with so much time seemingly left ahead of them.

And that is truly incomprehensible.