By Ben Goldberger —

Opinion editor Ben Goldberger reflects on the deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and the importance of family

I was walking back to my dorm room after another Sunday of putting the week’s newspaper together when I first saw the reports. I immediately dismissed it as clickbait, since it seemed impossible for a legendary person to die so unexpectedly.

It wasn’t until I saw “Sportscenter’s” tweet confirming the death of Kobe Bryant that I let myself believe the reports, utter disbelief and shock seeping into my body.

To me, Kobe Bryant was just an amazing basketball player. But to many of my friends, he was a role model, an idol even a parental figure to some. So many kids grew up wanting to be just like Kobe, buying his jersey and shoes, treating the “Mamba Mentality” as scripture and yelling “Kobe!” whenever they shot a paper ball into the trash can.

It makes sense why the whole sports world froze for a day when the news broke out.

Then an hour or so later, the reports came out that Gianna, Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter and future basketball star herself, was also killed in the crash.

When I heard this, I could not stop thinking about Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother. The thought of losing your husband and daughter at the same, unexpected time crushed me. She didn’t even get to say goodbye, just a “see you later” that was never fulfilled.

I am from Virginia, meaning I don’t see my family except over breaks and occasional weekend visits throughout the semester. Bryant’s death made me realize that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and every time I say goodbye to my family and friends could be my last.

This is a horrifying truth to wallow in, and it is impossible to live a healthy life if you are constantly worrying about you or a loved one possibly dying tomorrow. But it does remind you to prioritize what is truly important in life, and for me, that is family.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the small things in life like little grudges held on your siblings for eating your leftovers or disappointment that your significant other didn’t get you the gift you wanted for the holidays.

It’s almost human nature to get absorbed by the materialistic aspects of Valentine’s Day, spending bundles of money on getting the most expensive gift.

Sure, big flowers or extravagant jewelry is nice, but the best gift of all is being able to spend time with your loved ones.

When you are gone, your loved ones can get all of the gifts they want to, but nothing will ever fill the shoes that you once stood in. The memories made during any shared experience, whether a vacation across the world or baking cookies together at home, will always outweigh any gift you could give.

Kobe and Gianna, along with the seven other people killed in the helicopter crash, no longer have the opportunity to give or receive this gift.

But you do.

This Valentine’s Day, focus less on extravagant, materialistic gifts and more on making new memories with your loved ones, whether that is your significant other, your family or yourself.

Pursue things that make you happy and motivate you to succeed, and make them an everyday part of your life.

After all, that is the true Mamba Mentality.

Graphic by Alexis Simon // Louisville Cardinal