I’m not here to write another puff piece about how the death of Kobe Bryant affected my life. I thought it was startling, I thought it was a bummer, it sucks not just for his family but all the other families who were involved. But, look, I wasn’t the biggest Kobe fan. I wasn’t necessarily a Kobe hater either; I’m Kobe Ambivalent.
And, as a Sonics fan who stopped following the NBA in 2008, I’ve always kinda hated the Lakers, so what did you really expect from me?
Successful people really REALLY loved Kobe, and I get that. He’s the personification of an intense desire to achieve all of your hopes and dreams. He’s a beacon to anyone looking to get ahead and make a name for themselves. I am … NOT successful. I don’t have that drive to be the best at everything I do. I have a drive to be okay at a lot of things, and sample the variety that is life.
So, you know, I can’t relate. To that part of it, anyway.
As a sports fan, I can certainly relate to the loss of a beloved player you’ve followed your entire life. A player who brought you nothing but joy for an extended period of time, and most importantly, a player who brought you that success that every fan craves for their favorite teams.
Which got me to thinking: who would be that massive loss for Seattle fans?
Ken Griffey Jr. pops immediately to mind, and as far as personal achievements are concerned, he’s certainly the best professional athlete we’ve ever had. He reached the top of his sport, he was known and admired throughout the world, and an entire generation of baseball players all wore their caps backwards and pretended to be HIM at the plate (like today’s generation, I’m sure, will all try to be the next Mike Trout).
And, yeah, while the Mariners had some good teams during his tenure, and there are a lot of positive memories of those teams, he never brought us a championship, let alone multiple championships like Kobe did.
I think, no matter how great you are, no matter how many Hall of Fame votes you get, you’re always going to get bumped up another level every time you win a title for your city, at least when it comes to the fans of that team. I’m sure, if Griffey died in a tragic accident, the city of Seattle would mourn like crazy. But, I can guarantee the world wouldn’t mourn as massively as they have for Kobe, and I think it has a lot to do with his team success on the court as much as his individual success (taking nothing away, of course, from the people who truly mourn the loss of the others in that crash; I’m talking strictly from a sports fan perspective).
When you boil it down to that, Seattle doesn’t have many candidates. Gary Payton is probably the most beloved Sonics player, but that wouldn’t have the resonance. We’re too far removed from the 1979 championship team for it to matter as much.
The closest person Seattle has to someone like Kobe is probably Russell Wilson. He has that drive to be the best, he’ll almost certainly have a long and Hall of Fame career when it’s all said and done. Now, it’s just a matter of winning a few more titles. Russell Wilson might go down as the greatest Seattle athlete of all time, even surpassing the likes of Griffey, which is fun to think about. It’s fun because we’re still smack dab in the middle of his career; we’ve got so much more time left!
Let’s just hope, you know, his off-the-field shenanigans are more of the dorky variety and not … you know what? Nevermind, let’s just leave it alone.