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  • Editor’s NoteFeelings about the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant and COVID-19
  • James C. Wadley, PhD

The first few months of 2020 have been challenging for our community due to the unexpected losses of some of our brothers and sisters. The deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant in January caught many of us off-guard as the legendary basketball player and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles. What was tragic about this event was that basketball fans watched Kobe Bryant grow up in the league as young phenom; mismanaged the allegations of sexual assault in 2003; and atone for his transgressions by becoming active in his community and in his relationship with his family. He became one the greatest basketball players ever as well as become a man who was an extraordinary husband and father. My best friend, Michael Courts, and I used to joke around about Kobe Bryant all the time. I would chide him about Kobe shooting the ball too damn much while he would routinely show me video highlights by comparing him to the GOAT, Michael Jordan. What was compelling is that I never thought I would miss him and the truth is, I do. I miss him as a person, his transition to becoming a man, and maybe most important, his fallibility and rise as a human.

After his death, our community and our nation struggled to figure out its feelings about what his legacy would be. Many people were unapologetic fans who celebrated every move Kobe made until his death. There were others who felt tremendous sorrow about the loss of him in his role as a father, husband, player, Olympian, and brother. And finally, there were a number of people who maintained blunted feelings because Kobe was allegedly involved in a sexual assault case. Whatever your feelings may be about Kobe as a person, basketball player, or a man, you are entitled to have those complex emotions in that you don’t have to declare one stance over another. Our feelings and beliefs are complex and sometimes difficult to process. I had a terrible time making sense over it and it took me awhile to acknowledge my [End Page vii] sadness of his untimely departure and what he represented to our community and the game of basketball. As a transcendent figure, he is missed.

I think it is important that sex educators, counselors, therapists and activists be prepared and comfortable with helping their clients, students, and constituents to process their feelings about Kobe Bryant. Leading discussions about toxic masculinity, sexual assault, healthy communication and conflict resolution, consent, parenting, negotiating safe sex, social status, the influence that sports has on sexual expression, courage, race, racism, privilege, death and bereavement, trust and predictability, community engagement, and determination could be of great benefit to our youth and families. Curricula and lesson plans could be created that could help teens process responsible sexual decision making, cultural expectations, peer pressure, and forgiveness.

In addition to the loss of Kobe Bryant, many of us have already lost a number of our brothers and sisters to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shaken by the unexpected and stealth manner in which the virus moves, we recently learned that Black folks are more likely to contract the coronavirus and die from it. The disproportionate death rate is due to health disparities and socioeconomic challenges that contribute to the ease of transmission and almost immediate physical complications. What’s unfortunate is that the enemy, in this case, is invisible and more often than not, we struggle to make sure that our families remain safe.

Because of COVID-19, many of our family members have lost their jobs and are having a difficult time making ends meet in a systemically oppressive environment. Each day becomes more challenging as many governmental resources that are made available for the masses will not trickle down to those who have been traditionally marginalized or underrepresented. Even my institution of higher education is struggling right now as we are trying to navigate significant debt and a lack of preparedness for handling a crisis that did not exist a few months ago. I would...


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