By now, everyone has heard the news. If you’re like me, maybe you have even gone out of your way to watch the reactions and responses of those who personally knew Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, who were among the nine killed in a tragic helicopter accident on Sunday.
Based on what I’ve seen, every person who knew Kobe, and even people who didn’t, loved him. Everyone seems to have a personal story about him that is either funny, heartwarming or just deeply moving. Kobe was a legendary basketball player, but he was so much more than that to the people who knew him.
However, the truth of the matter is that Kobe Bryant, while he was alive, had a lot of haters. People thought he was overrated. People said he shouldn’t even be in the conversation for the greatest player ever. People insisted he was a bad teammate. People attacked every flaw the man had when he was alive in order to try and discredit his accomplishments.
Now, this is not unlike the baseless hate we see for great players across sports, such as LeBron James, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter, among others.
Why do fans decide to hate on greatness? It’s hard to say, but I think the most likely reason is jealousy. Fans of opposing teams are mad that the all-time great player is not on their team, so they hate and hate because it helps them sleep better at night. If they can convince themselves that the player really isn’t as good as he’s made out to be, then it’s like their team didn’t miss out on so much.
Do you realize how incomprehensibly stupid that is? Hating for hate’s sake is something that has to go.
It’s worth noting that none of this hate ever comes from teammates, coaches, opponents or anyone who actually has any credibility. The hate always flows from talking heads on sports debate shows (Skip Bayless, Max Kellerman, etc.) or salty fans hiding behind a screen on social media.
Now that Kobe is gone, you’re probably not going to hear any more hate from people because they feel guilty. They spent so much energy trying to prove that Kobe didn’t deserve the praise he got, but now he’s gone and it doesn’t matter anyways. No matter what the haters said, everybody is going to remember Kobe as a legend.
As sports fans, we are so lucky. We get to experience greatness almost every time we turn on a TV by seeing the best that every sport has to offer. Among those great athletes, there are some that just stand out above the rest. And often, those are the most polarizing athletes, beloved and respected by those who appreciate the game, but hated by those who feel the need to hate.
I implore you to stop and think the next time you are going to spew some hateful crap about Tom Brady or LeBron James or any of the other polarizing athletes in sports: Are you doing it because you actually feel that way or are you just angry because that player keeps beating your favorite team?
Life is too short to hate, man. Kobe and Gigi are perfect representations of that. You don’t have to love every player on every team. That would defeat the purpose of cheering for a team in competitive sports. But at the very least, appreciate the greatness you see from any player. They are out there playing for our entertainment as fans. The least we can do is show respect.
I hope that Kobe’s death ignites a mentality to appreciate legends while they are still around. Not everyone will be around long enough to be universally respected at a Hall of Fame induction or for a lifetime achievement award. Some, like Kobe, leave us unexpectedly, so we should appreciate greatness while we can and not take it for granted.