“MVP! MVP! MVP!”
Chants for Kobe that I missed hearing after that 60-point explosion in the last game of his 20-year NBA superstar career. “19 to 20 years,” he even said once upon a time in an interview when asked to project how many years he could be playing for the Purple and Gold. How surreal that during that time, he was still that skinny guy with hard curly hair projecting the swagger of an 18 year old after being picked 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets back in the 1996 NBA Draft and eventually traded to the fabled Los Angeles Lakers.
This ferocious fighter’s transition from zero to hero, hero to zero and back from zero to hero again, took some steep climbing and hard falls as “Dear Basketball” life, as it is in common life, must always play this way as expected. But, he didn’t mind. He was up for the challenge. No. He wanted it. He knew he had to go through this to get to where he really wanted to be. He got there alright. Then, when it was time to say quits to the game he loves, he merely listened to his body…and he didn’t fear hanging his sneakers for good. His daring personality made him feel that he can do more outside of professional basketball. That’s when the Oscar award came. But, more importantly, Kobe might have searched his conscience, too. He felt that he should spend more time with his darling family. “To my family, my wife Vanessa and kids…Thank you all for your sacrifice.”
Sacrifice is an understatement, even in a pious world like ours, to accept such a tragedy that befell this legend who moved the lives of a great many whether in prejudicially-instantly negative ways or perpetually positive manner. His former coach Phil Jackson asserts in a coffee table book that Kobe is one of the most un-coachable players in the league to the extent of describing the latter as pretty much individualistic. His detractors are one in saying that Kobe is a ball-hog and refuses to share the ball to his teammates taking matters into his own hands while forcing shots here and there. Well, this would be a highly subjective (as is the case with his critics’ feelings) defense in favor of Kobe, but I must do it to balance things out and settle the score. Those negatives are sure to come anytime of the day especially when Kobe was still very much around. He knows that will be a part of him. However, Coach Phil was perhaps speaking in reference to a young and egotistic Bryant who actually couldn’t be blamed for being a vicious perfectionist battling consistently with the coach through the minutest details of the game and calling out his teammates for sloppiness which he suffers from as well manifesting in his turnover stats for reasons that his emotions take the better of him when he should’ve been focusing more on egging his team to look at the positives that they were doing on the floor. This is connected to his being considered a ball-hog, by and large, as he might’ve really distrusted his teammates that much or he just wanted to win it all that badly. We certainly know that this man can pass as he showed in many of his epic moves and I believe he once registered 17 assists which could’ve been his career high. He may have overanalyzed before and didn’t realize that he was not Atlas and he couldn’t carry the whole Laker globe on his shoulders. In time, the transformation was evident as this once-might-have-been-really-selfish man learned the true “Detail(s)” of the game (of life) as LBJ recently put it, “We celebrate this kid who came here at 18, retired at 38, and became one of the best dads that we have seen for the past three years.” Kobe’s former immature mentality morphed into the straightforwardly idealistic “Mamba Mentality” that was shared to numerous sports personalities and should forever be ingrained into our psyches which was sincerely developed from the “Mind” of KB 8-24.
Now, wrapping my mind around the passing of my hardcourt hero in such a hurry is absolutely devastating. I’m even a few months older than he is. We were both born in 1978 and I’m turning 42 this coming March. Him, supposed to be in August. What a hugely unbelievable loss (or gain in the Kingdom of Heaven — if you want to hypothesized about the existence of such a place, which is way over the top if you ask me).
Being emotional and all, it’s definitely difficult to digest Kobe’s demise. Same goes with Gianna (his 13-year old daughter) and the other 7 passengers of that ill-fated helicopter crash. However, I’m too rational for that. I wanted to know what was running in my idol’s mind when the clock was ticking before that chopper plunged to its destruction. With his high (basketball) IQ and competitive drive, I would’ve expected him to act and react according to what the circumstances required like what he did during crunch time when he canned that buzzer-beater sideward running dagger 3 (ala 4-time MVP Ramon “El Presidente” Fernandez of the PBA) over the outstretched arm of Dwayne Wade no less; and when he made that poised jumper just in the nick of time to gain a 3-1 series lead over the Steve Nash-powered No. 2 seed Phoenix Suns in the 2006 Semis which the latter ultimately won to Kobe and La-La Land’s indignation.
What happened already happened but I still believe Kobe didn’t go down with that helicopter and was smothered in that blazing ball of fire of an explosion after the crash without a fight as his iconic force was shaped in the mold of his relentless Never-Say-Die spirit (likened to the Ginebra NSD).
Switching to my psychological and philosophical gears, I will take you to school and let’s collectively analyze if we should refer to death as something that God has simply written in the palms of our hands or can we actually choose when and how to die? I must tell you that I have doubts about the idea of “fate.” If you’re saying that the lives of Kobe, Gianna and company along with the other victims of aircraft accidents in the past are destined to end this way, aren’t you implying that we just lie down and surrender to the fact that we all have our death days to come and it is totally inevitable if we’re preordained to expire a month from now at the mercy of a viral pandemic like the nCOV (novel coronavirus//has already affected thousands in Wuhan, China and all over the world including foreigners in the Philippines, and has killed almost a hundred or more as of this writing)?
Yes. We will all die—correct—and we always claim that we don’t know where, when and how. You can bang your head on the wall on this counter argument. The truth is, in the words of so-called experts and self-proclaimed situational analysts (like yours truly), we actually have what it takes to stop death. I know. You’re probably up in arms raving right now that I don’t know what I’m talking about and this is a form of blasphemy. I’m not blaming you for being a believer of what those old religious folks usually say, “If it’s your time to go, you go.” That is un-originally easier to understand in layman’s view. Otherwise, you can activate a little more of your 20% brain juice and squeeze the logic out of every human nook and cranny to be able to decode the despicable-ness of (pre)destined death.
To cite another example aside from the Bryant chopper case, predestined death means that when a senior high school student in LB Lalakay crosses the wide street in front of the school going to the other side, and that student got hit by a rampaging car and died at the tender age of 16, it was purely God’s will. A few months ago, I would’ve accepted this thought upfront. Today, not anymore. Why? Would you rather I say that the student and the student’s parents bitterly accept this so-called fate without making an allowance for rhyme or reason to come in within the sphere of the event? If this is so, why does (police/criminal) investigation even take place? We all understand that breaking down of what actually happened (what could have been or might have been) is processed using the individual standpoints of the authorities, family members and kibitzers alike. In perspective, whatever they think matters little or do not matter any longer as death has taken its natural course. The student is dead and most Christians say that he’s/she’s “in a better place right now.”
That’s what trusting in fate and predestined death means. Basically, not thinking logically. If you were in the proper frame of mind, then, you would listen to your priests and pastors who are (guilty of) saying that death could’ve been avoided double-talking their way that God knows everything and we are assured that there is Paradise in the next life. Well, that’s comforting but it blurs rationale. The verifiable truth of the matter is that a physical body died while the un-confirmable concern is the “better Paradise after death.” In the real world, this student wouldn’t have died if not for his/her carelessness, not looking carefully before/while crossing the street. That’s why it always feels great to have those traffic aids on the streets holding placards with the word STOP. It seems that these maniacal automobile drivers are habitually in a rush and wouldn’t mind bumping you off the road with your bones breaking to a crisp and skull cracking similar to the sound of munching potato and corn snacks.
I, myself, am aware of the dangers of crossing streets especially as wide as that of Lalakay’s highway. I always use my extended arm with my hand signalling a request for the vehicles to stop, so I could cross the street at peace. No doubt, I had my share of near-hit experiences on the road as a commuter, walker and a once motorcycle driver. It’s quite probable that one day, luck might not be on my side. No. No. I don’t believe in the word luck anymore. We make luck and what we do leads to our undoing.
The thing is, I and a host of others would one day fall into our human tendency to commit a mistake while walking or driving, and that would be the end…for me/us. Otherwise, I march on to the next day fully in control of what I need to do right to prevent myself from becoming extinct but also conscious that mental errors are lurking in the background. If not, I would just have to relax and tell myself that whatever happens, I’m in God’s hands—live or die—because God doesn’t seem to mind if we escape death or not with the billions of people who crossed over to that other side, a million of which were sent there by the fury of God Himself and the rest perished because it was their time already with or without a fight. Sounds absurd to me. Simply unprovable. No one has crossed that valley (of the shadows of death) and came back alive on Earth to tell that God is waiting for us on the next frontier.
It’s amazing how most of my thoughts now resonates of secularism. I’m thinking that less (open atheists are included in this group) would bet against the concept of having NO GOD as Pascal’s Wager (as in Blaise Pascal, the famous French philosopher, mathematician and physicist) challenged everyone that you ought to believe in God because, at least, you’ve done your best to do good things for Him while alive and if there is really a God after death, then, you win. If there’s none, you didn’t lose at all because you have still done and promoted good will. However, there is like a sense of “uto-uto” (following without thinking) in this gamble since people are not empowered solely by God, particularly not by religion, to do good things for oneself and others. You can, in fact, do anything good you want without prompted by a God. And, for sure, when you die and there’s really God waiting, He would shower you with all understanding. You might react to this violently and claim that I’m essentially sour-graping. For all intents and purposes, all I ever wanted was to believe in a God who controls the universe (or multiverse) including death but when my consciousness was unlocked towards the more valid key about mortality and how the Earth’s system works—providing all necessary cautions to heed if you want to be alive (like wearing a face mask at all times during this threat of nCOV which I don’t practice—I aim to defy conventions and norms at every turn)—I honestly don’t think God has control over who dies and who doesn’t in this world.
It is implied that fate is already a done deal. It’s accepting that whatever transpires will occur however hard you fight it. Applying this to the theory of dying, you only escape death when it’s written in that heaven’s book that it’s not your time yet to go. Thus, you stay. Possibly as a permanently paralyzed person or someone who will totally recuperate from the scratches and bruises after some time. Either way, you live on. That’s your fate. In living and dying, you simply go through the motions like a remote-controlled robot. Whatever you think and whatever you do, it’s already expected and known because your tendencies are very much obvious at every stage of your lifetime. As I write this, everything I’m thinking and writing right now, God knows for sure—nothing and no one escape His mind. But, it’s the greatest mystery that if this is true, how come He cannot save good, innocent and promising people like Kobe Bryant who was even reported to have attended church service before boarding that doomed flight. God’s will? Death day—it’s already written and cannot be erased or changed?
There are indeed so many angles in Bryant’s chopper disaster. Why did they push through with the flight despite the foggy atmosphere while other small crafts were being grounded at that time? Who gave them the authority to do so? What human error did the expert pilot, who happened to be Bryant’s favorite, commit this day? Is it possible that a consistently well-conditioned helicopter will malfunction in such a weather condition? What was the thought and action pattern of Kobe and company before the nosedive to that remote California mountainous terrain?
In the United States where radical thinking is the norm, I know they would all agree that Kobe, Gianna and the others could’ve been saved if the abovementioned considerations played to their advantage. In the Philippines, where religion reigns supreme, supermajority of people will surrender to the “holy fact” that Bryant’s time was up and there were no more chances to beat the buzzer.
Like what I previously indicated in an earlier paragraph, I would’ve wanted Kobe to look death straight in the eyes and fight it off fair and square—granting that the script of his death can be altered—thinking that there’s no definite death day at all.
I can’t stop crying because I can’t cry in the first place. At the rate I’m going (what I’m doing with my mind and body), I should be following in the footsteps of my idol soon.
But, right now, Shaq and I are just sick.