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What's So Special About Kobe?

What’s so special about Kobe?  I just read a rant on Facebook that said: nothing.  The person who wrote the post is upset that his death is getting so much more attention than other people’s.  Like the other people who died in the crash.  Like the many members of our military or emergency services who’ve died in the line of duty.  Like all the other people who die tragic deaths in the prime of their lives every day. 

The post writer makes it clear that he thinks Kobe’s death is sad and tragic.  But he asks a provocative question: Why are people so broken up over Kobe when they barely notice these other tragedies?  Why should Kobe’s death be given so much more attention just because he was a great basketball player?  Why do we treat sports stars’ and celebrities’ tragic deaths so much differently? 

What’s so special about Kobe?

On the one hand, I totally agree.  Kobe’s death isn’t any more of a tragedy than all the others.  We should be just as distraught over their deaths.  We should mourn them just as much. 

But on the other hand, I totally understand why people are taking his death so hard.  He was a young man with a young family in the prime of his life.   Fit and healthy, he was in perfect shape.  Full of passion and energy, he had so much more life to live.  On top of this, he was as privileged as they come.  He had the best of everything.  Access to the best healthcare, to the best security, and, ironically, to the best modes of transportation. 

Kobe was larger than life.  In our minds, he was as invulnerable to death as any of us are.  And that’s what hits us so hard: if someone like Kobe is vulnerable to death, how much more are we!  His death confronts us with our own mortality.

What’s so special about Kobe?

The shock and grief we feel at Kobe’s death; the shock and grief we feel when someone dies this tragically; the shock and grief we feel at death generally—this shock and grief hints at the fact that we do have some kind of immortality.  Listen to how Philip Yancey frames this: “Nature treats death as a normal occurrence, the foundation of the all-important food chain.  Only we humans react with shock and elaboration, as though we can’t get used to the fact.  We dress up our corpses in new clothes, embalm them, and bury them in airtight caskets and concrete vaults to slow natural decay.  We act out of a stubborn reluctance to yield to this most powerful of experiences…These two ‘unnatural’ reactions hint at another world.  In a way unique to our species, we are not fully at home here.  As a symptom of that fact, we feel stirrings toward something higher and more lasting.  Although our cells may carry traces of stardust, we also bear the image of the God who made those stars.” (Philip Yancey, A Skeptic’s Guide to Faith, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009, pp. 38-39)

Despite the fact that death is the most natural thing in our experience—once born, the one thing all living beings can count on is that, sooner or later, they will die—we have this overwhelming instinct that tells us death isn’t natural.    

Nature tells us to simply get over it, but we simply can’t.  So, where in the world—literally—did we ever get the notion that our mortality, our finite existence, is unnatural?  If we weren’t so used to it, if it didn’t come so naturally to us, we would realize how remarkable this reaction is.

Our shock and grief isn’t likely to be a by-product of natural selection—besides being so unnatural, it’s too distracting and debilitating to be an effective survival mechanism.  So, where in the world did we ever get such an overwhelming instinct? 

Well, if it’s not something we’ve derived from this world, then the most logical conclusion is that it is something from outside of this world.  It’s pointing us to an existence we have beyond this life, and by extension, a God whose made us for this existence. 

What’s so special about Kobe?

Nothing…and everything.  Although it hasn’t gotten much attention, Kobe was a man of faith.  He was an active Catholic who talked about being at peace with death. 

What has gotten a lot of attention is how much he did in his short life for others.  I had no idea.  I always thought of him as a self-absorbed athlete.  I wasn’t a fan.  But I’ve been stunned by all he did, especially for those who usually go unnoticed. 

The most powerful example is a young man he visited who had a terminal condition.  Even with all the people he met, Kobe apparently had a gift for quickly making deep connections, and he made a really deep connection with this young man right away.  Several days later, the young man died.  Kobe was totally broken up about it.  He really cared.  He had true compassion for even the least famous among us. 

Kobe saw that, in God’s eyes, we are all infinitely precious, infinitely special—and then he lived accordingly.  

That’s what’s so special about Kobe.

How has Kobe’s death affected you?  Do you see any problems with all the attention it’s been getting?  I’d love to hear what you think!  You can leave any comments or questions you have on the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website.  Also, please “Like” our Facebook page and subscribe to our YouTube channel.  Thank you so much for all your support!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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