“All I ever needed to know about Kobe Bryant was this: that throughout our friendship, the most meaningful conversations we had — they were always about family,” the 45-year-old former New York Yankees star wrote in a post titled “Kobe” for the Player’s Tribune on Sunday, January 26. “Put aside one of the all-time great basketball careers for a second. Put aside his famous work ethic, the Mamba mentality, that incredible will to win. I’ll let everyone else tackle that. But when I think of Kobe, I really just end up thinking about those special few personal conversations that we were lucky enough to share together, each time one of us had a new baby daughter.”
Kobe, who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, shared four daughters with wife Vanessa Bryant: Natalia, 17, Gianna, 13, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months. The NBA legend and daughter Gianna were two of the nine people killed in the tragic accident.
“I end up thinking about how, here was this guy who was beyond gifted as an athlete, who was obsessed with being a champion, who was known as an absolute assassin with a ball in his hands,” Jeter wrote. “And in the moments I got to spend with him? He didn’t really talk about any of that. He cared much more about being a husband to Vanessa and a dad to his girls. He loved his family — he was his family. That’s what was important. And that’s the Kobe I’ll remember. I want to give my deepest condolences to Vanessa and the rest of the Bryant family, and to the families of the other passengers. Tragedies like this have a cruel way of reminding us of what’s important in life: spending time with our loved ones, and being there for them no matter what.”
Jeter, for his part, is the father of two daughters, Bella, 2, and Story, nearly 12 months, whom he shares with wife Hannah Jeter. The retired MLB player noted that he’s seen Kobe “hit all kinds of buzzer beaters” and “win gold medals and championship rings,” but he’s never seen him “look as happy” as he did courtside with Gianna at the Los Angeles Lakers game last month.
“Kobe just loved being a dad. And when it comes to his legacy, I really hope we’re able to take the time to remember that as an essential part of it,” Jeter explained. “Rest in peace to Gianna Bryant. Rest in peace to the other passengers on board.”
The baseball player concluded: “And rest in peace to Kobe Bryant — who knew that his life was only as important as the love he had for the people in it. Who knew that he was born to play basketball. But it was family over everything.”
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