He’s about family. That was what baseball player Derek Jeter, himself a great athlete, said of basketball legend Kobe Bryant in an emotion-filled tribute to his friend in the media platform The Players’ Tribune on January 21
Bryant, 41, was killed in a helicopter crash over the weekend, along with 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a California mountain.
“lf I ever needed to know about Kobe Bryant was this: that throughout our friendship, the most meaningful conversations we had — they were always about family.” Jeter wrote.
Kobe’s family was wife Vanessa, whom he married in 2001 and almost divorced in 2013, and their four daughters — Natalia, Bianka Gianna and Capri.
“Put aside one of the all-time great basketball careers for a second. Put aside his famous work ethic, the Mamba Mentality, that incredible will to win. I’ll let everyone else tackle that. But when I think of Kobe, I really just end up thinking about those special few personal conversations that we were lucky enough to share together,” Jeter, a baseball Hall of Famer, said.
“Each time one of us had a new baby daughter. I end up thinking about how, here was this guy who was beyond gifted as an athlete, who was obsessed with being a champion, who was known as an absolute assassin with a ball in his hands,” the father of two with spouse Hannah continued.
The man the Major League Baseball community calls “Mr. November” said the moments the two of them got together, “He didn’t really talk about any of that.”
“Any” refers to the five National basketball Association championship, 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player, and all the accolades that go with these.
“He cared much more about being a husband to Vanessa and a dad to his girls. He loved his family — he was his family. That’s what was important, “ he asserted.
“And that’s the Kobe I’ll remember,” Jeter said.
“I want to give my deepest condolences to Vanessa and the rest of the Bryant family, and to the families of the other passengers,” he wrote. “Tragedies like this have a cruel way of reminding us of what’s important in life: spending time with our loved ones, and being there for them no matter what. Which makes today’s events feel especially cruel.”
“Rest in peace to Gianna Bryant. Rest in peace to the other passengers on board,” he said by way of condolences.
“And rest in peace to Kobe Bryant — who knew that his life was only as important as the love he had for the people in it. Who knew that he was born to play basketball. But it was family over everything,” Jeter reminisced
“I’ve seen the guy go for 81. I’ve seen him hit all kinds of buzzer beaters. I’ve seen him win gold medals and championship rings. But I’ve still never seen him look as happy, in those big moments on the court, as he looked the other day off of it: with an arm around Gigi, sitting courtside,” he related.
The now chief executive officer of the Miami Marlins said his friend Kobe “just loved being a dad.”
And when it comes to Kobe’s legacy, Jeter expressed hope that “we’re able to take the time to remember that as an essential part of it.”