Kobe Bryant was effortlessly relevant, from his emergence as an Italian-speaking teenager in the mid-1990s to the final night of his life, when LeBron James passed him for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
He seemed, always, built to be a basketball player -- a Michael Jordan blueprint among a sea of imitators -- until he scored 60 points in his final game, retired, and became something else.
The impression you got from all of the stories on Sunday afternoon and night, after news broke that Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, along with seven others, died in a helicopter accident in Calabasas, Ca., was that he was a genuinely curious person, about movie-making, about the media, about how you were doing, about people.
In his second life, he was interested less in being a great former basketball player than being a creative mind. Two years after retiring, he won an Oscar. Before Spike Lee.
What next? -- a question so many former athletes simply do not ever confront, let alone answer -- he had figured out years before the assignment was due.
What stuck out to me, in his NBA afterlife, was his honest interest in the WNBA and the progression of women’s basketball, and what correlation it had with his dark history.
Here he is speaking with Jimmy Kimmel about his late daughter’s hope of making the league.
Here is a video of him deep in hoops discussion with her.
Here is the impact he had on Oregon star and friend Sabrina Ionescu.
Here he was, last week, saying women could play in the NBA.
Kobe realized the immense sway he had among basketball fans, and used it to put women’s basketball in a more well-regarded and deserved light.
Why did he do that?
Were his efforts in the promotion of women’s basketball an act of guilt for what he did in 2003? An acknowledgement of a second chance? An attempt to uplift lives after hurting one? What role did his four daughters play in his support of women?
Obviously, we'll never know the answer to those questions.
Either way, his ambassadorship seemed genuine.
Here are some of the best articles written on Kobe from yesterday and today:
Esquire: It is a terrible irony that Kobe Bryant should fall from the sky
Vice: Kobe Bryant was no more complicated than anyone else
ESPN: Remembering Kobe Bryant: Relentless, curious and infinitely complicated
L.A. Times: How can Kobe Bryant be gone?
Slate: GiGi Bryant was a great basketball player
Let's take this to your inbox. Sign up below.