For the first time since Sunday’s tragedy, the Lakers return to the court tonight to play a basketball game vs. the Blazers. I do not know if I’m ready or not, but I’ll be watching intently regardless of my readiness. If there were injury reports for fans, I think we’d all be listed as “questionable: broken heart”, with all of us wondering if we are really going to be able to manage at all.
The players, then, will be under an even greater burden. To grieve, then to perform, and probably do both at the same time. Sports at the highest level are an act of singular focus and I wonder whether that’s possible at all on a night like this one. My heart (and my head) tell me it’s really not. This organization is suffering and even a doctoral degree in compartmentalizing cannot build the walls needed to contain these emotions.
LeBron reportedly told his teammates in a team gathering that god gave him wide shoulders for a reason. In a moving instagram post about his relationship with Kobe in the aftermath of Sunday’s tragedy, he also said that he promises to further Kobe’s legacy. That, of course, can and will take many forms. But, on the court, I can only hope that means a level of competing that, if we’re being honest, LeBron already knows plenty about, but can remind us all of when the games do resume.
Note, I’m talking about competing, not winning. The latter is something none of us fully control — not even players as great as LeBron or Kobe. Even the best careers are littered with failures and we’re better for understanding this from the get-go. This understanding allows us to appreciate the competition; to appreciate the drive to do your best and give it your all.
As Kobe famously said, in life it’s the journey, not the destination that matters most. In death, then, I hope we take those words and hold them close.
A new journey begins tonight. One that will be emotional and tear-filled. One that will serve as a reminder of what was lost, but also a reminder of why we cared in the first place. A celebration of life while grieving a tragic death. Of Kobe. Of Gianna. Of John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli. Of Sarah and Payton Chester. Of Christina Mauser. Of Ara Zobayan.
Take good care of yourself today and this evening. And beyond. Today is a first step, but there are many more to come. We will take them together.