Losses near and far
My oldest son is 27 years old now, a grown man with a family of his own. But it wasnít that long ago ó to me at least ó that he was a 10-year-old boy who was absolutely consumed by the game of basketball.
My sonís favorite athlete at the time was Kobe Bryant, just as mine had been Magic Johnson.
In October 2002, Kobe and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers played an exhibition game in North Little Rock against the Memphis Grizzlies. I took my sons to the game and Iím not sure who was happier ó my oldest son because he got to see Kobe play in person or me because I was able to give him that opportunity. It was a special night.
One memory stands out in particular. At one point during the game, a Memphis player stole the ball from Kobe ó who responded by dunking on the Lakersí next three possessions. Or at least thatís the way I remember it.
My son wasnít the only one who thought highly of Kobe Bryant. He wasnít my favorite player per se, but I admired his competitive spirit and his iron will to win. Thatís a trait he shared with Michael Jordan.
On a basketball court, Kobe Bryant was invincible. He was immortal.
Thatís one of the reasons why it came as a great shock Sunday afternoon to learn that Kobe had been killed along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles. Kobe was indestructible. Wasnít he?
I heard the news on ESPN radio as I was driving home after a weekend with my son and his family in North Little Rock. I had made the trip partly to watch my oldest grandson play in a youth league game Saturday morning.
Unfortunately, Kobeís death wasnít the only basketball-related tragedy that occurred over the weekend. Another touched much closer to home.
On Friday, White Hall High School basketball coach Marc Stringer died of cancer at the age of 37. Iím proud to be a Bulldog, Class of 1987, so I felt his loss even though I didnít know him personally.
It stung even more because I did know Marcís dad, Don, years ago.
Don Stringer coached the White Hall team for many years, and he was one of the best high school coaches Iíve ever seen. I watched his teams win games they had no business winning, against opponents who were clearly superior from an athletic perspective. I have a hunch that Marc Stringer was the same kind of coach.
Today my heart goes out to Don Stringer and his family, just as it goes out to the Bryant family and the families of all those who perished in that helicopter crash.
We all know that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Any one of us can leave this world in a fraction of a second. Itís one of those things, too, that we canít control. If youíre like me, you probably donít think about it too often.
But sometimes, life hands us a jolting reminder. Or two.