Columnists Opinion Starlett Quarles

THE X FACTOR: Kobe Bryant — life, loss and lessons learned

Words could not express how deeply saddened I was when I learned of the death of L.A.’s beloved Kobe Bryant, and his daughter Gianna. Like most, I was at a loss of words.

I first learned of the plane crash through a text. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, so I jumped up to get confirmation on my Facebook timeline. And there they were, the string of posts, articles and pictures that flooded my page as I continued to scroll up.

I turned on the TV. And there I sat for the majority of the day; watching as the news unfolded about the particulars of the crash, and the great loss of the seven other souls that were on the plane with Kobe and Gianna: John Altobelli, Kerri Altobelli, Alyss Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester and Ara Zobayan.

As I watched the news footage on Kobe, and listened to the expressions of love and sorrow from fans, friends, celebrities, and ex-teammates; there was so much to reflect on about this young man whose life ended so tragically — and in such an extraordinary way.

I don’t know about you, but when someone of Kobe’s status and celebrity dies, one of the first things I always do is ask God why. There has to be a lesson He wants us to receive from such a shocking loss.

And for me, with celebrities like Kobe and Aayliah, His “lessons” aren’t always obvious, like “don’t do drugs” or “don’t drink and drive.” Because they didn’t do any of that. In fact, Kobe was the complete opposite.

Almost every channel I turned to reflected on Kobe’s life as a loving husband, engaged father, compassionate giver and of course an extraordinary athlete. His NBA legacy and statistics were praised throughout the day. To name a few: five championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, one league MVP Award, 18 All-Star Games and the only NBA player to have a 20-year career with one team.

But why Kobe, God? What is the lesson(s) you wanted us to learn from his 41 years of life? What was Your purpose for Kobe’s life?

Now, one thing I know about God is that He’ll always answer your call; you just have to be open to receive the answer. So I continued to watch, almost every day. In fact, it became escapable.

Kobe was everywhere. The media continued to report on his death every day. My social media timelines were still being peppered with “friends” expressing their sadness and sorrow. And as I drove throughout the streets of L.A., it felt like the city was just in mourning. I saw countless billboards of Kobe and Gianna’s loving embrace. Vendors, on what seemed like every corner, waving T-shirts, hats, and Lakers jerseys with Kobe’s infamous number 8 and 24.

And Staples Center was the mecca. Thousands of fans from L.A. and across the world gathered in the L.A. Live Plaza everyday for a week to pay tribute to Kobe by creating a public memorial of flowers, candles, pictures, balloons and written condolences to name a few. L.A. was at a loss; and like me, looking for answers.

As the week ended, I revisited my conversation with God, and reflected in the solace from the answer that came to me. Kobe’s life and death has different meanings for different people. We will never really know God’s true will for someone’s life because people impact people in so many different ways.

For me, I am motivated and inspired by Kobe’s sense of family, faith, commitment to excellence and resiliency. For others, it may have been his athleticism, team loyalty and love of the game.

Whatever impact Kobe’s life has had on the world, I believe it will be felt for generations to come; especially here in Los Angeles as we’ve honored him and Gianna at this week’s public funeral.

Kobe will be greatly missed, but never forgotten. His death has impacted so many people, and I will close by sharing some of God’s other “answers:”

I think [Kobe’s] legacy was his work ethic. He appeared to soar to the highest heights in whatever endeavor he took on.”

— Camille McKenzie, 50

“Even though I’m not a basketball fan, the impact of his death, along with his daughter’s, affirmed that life cannot be taken for granted. Each day is a privilege and it should be treated as such.”

— Alexis Armstead, 16

“Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I fell in love with Kobe’s ‘by any means necessary attitude;’ his tenacious work ethic; and his killer instinct. Every time doubt creeps in, there are two images that cross my mind: Kobe air-balling a game winner as a rookie; and the numerous game winners he made throughout his Hall of Fame career.

“It was that mentality that has inspired me, by the age of 32, to earn a BA from UCLA, an MA from Fresno Pacific University, become a doctoral student at Concordia University, the head coach of the Academy of Art University [which is a NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Team], and the senior woman administrator. Kobe taught me that confidence is in your preparation. He always prepared to be the best.

“My childhood idol physically died in a helicopter crash, but his legacy lives on in every accomplishment of each child he touched. ‘Mamba Mentality’ is more than a mindset. It’s a lifestyle.”

 — Krystle Evans, 32

Starlett Quarles is a Gen X Advocate, public speaker and host of the internet TV Talk Show, “The Dialogue with Starlett Quarles.” For more, please visit www.TheDialogueLA.com.