The news of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death this morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas has started to sink in. And, having lived through something similar in sports myself, after a few hours of reading the news accounts, I couldn’t help but think back to a dreaded fall Sunday and Monday in 1985 after the Flyers rising superstar goaltender, and fan favorite, Pelle Lindbergh, suffered fateful car crash from early that November Sunday morning. The parallels are way to similar. Hero. Family. Friends. The only difference is only Pelle died in the car crash, with two survivors.
While Pelle was an active player, and Kobe a retired hero, the adoration and respect they both carried is far too similar.
But what’s really happening is going to be even as gut-wrenching for those within the Laker’s family as the news of the death was to others.
To give you all some background, I was part of the Flyers management team, as back then I directed their amateur hockey program and also was the office manager. I remember hearing the news from my dad on the way back from a NEA conference at George Washington University the next day.
After hearing what transpired, I immediately called our assistant coach E.J. Maguire to get a sense of what had happened and what was going on. “Shock. Disbelief. Sadness” were some of his words. But the next few days between the crash and our next home game went from business as usual to more about what do we do. What’s the right thing to do was the common question. More importantly, how should we do it?
I’m sure now that all of those same thoughts that passed through all of the Flyers organization’s leadership’s mind and in discussion that next morning are what’s transpiring within the Lakers brain trust right now. It’s also not an easy gathering to be attending as Kobe was part of the “family” that brought greatness to the franchise.
While many of his era have moved on, the Buss family remains in charge, and for them and their leadership execs, as well as for the current players, the next few days are not going to be easy. And because the next home game is against the local rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, all eyes in the city will be upon them come Tuesday night.
And, it’s not just with the leadership that has decisions to make, as so too will the players from today and the past have to do things and say things. What do they do? How do they handle things…