Kobe Bryant is gone.

Those are the hardest words I’ve ever had to write for this blog.

It. Makes. Me. Sick.

Kobe Bryant is gone. The player who captivated the world with his basketball talents is dead. How can this be?

For many of us, he was our childhood.

He was my childhood idol. He was your childhood idol. Playing basketball in my driveway, I would wear a Kobe No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers jersey. I felt like Kobe. I was Kobe. 

I sat quietly. I cried. I didn’t believe it.

This doesn’t feel real. Never will. But it happened.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

Why him?

His legacy wasn’t supposed to end like this. 

How can this be?

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas. They were traveling to a basketball camp where Gianna was set to play and Kobe to coach.

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No helicopter can break Kobe, right? He’s immortal. He’s untouchable. He didn’t need a helicopter. He flew so smooth. For 20 years, he reached a level of greatness that very few ever will. Gianna was supposed to be next in line.

Now, she’ll never get to do that. Kobe will never grow old. He won’t see the statue honored in his name. We won’t witness his Hall of Fame speech, one that, although it is a basketball honor, was expected to be more about life. He won’t sit courtside, toying with Shaq about winning five championships. No more watching Lebron James chase his records. No more teaching moments.

This can’t be real life.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

How can this be?

Kobe and Gianna leave behind a wife and mother, Vanessa and daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, who is less than a year old. The horror of this is unfathomable. The tragedy of this is indescribable.

I continue to cry.

The wound is felt worldwide.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

How can this be?

Whether you love him or hate him, if you’re a fan of basketball, Kobe is in the conversation. He’d have you standing on your feet, cheering at the top of your lungs. Or, he’d have your head in your hands, devastated because he just beat your team.

He had that type of impact.

He was the poster on the wall, on the television in our living room, the name we’d shout when we’d roll up a trash ball and throw it across the classroom.

But for all that he did, he was just getting started.

In his second act, he told USA Today Sports in a story published on Thursday, January 23, that he cherished his 20-year career with the Lakers, but that the awards he won for his 2017 animated short film, Dear Basketball– a poem announcing his retirement– which included an Oscar, a Sports Emmy and an Annie Award were “at the top.”

Bryant also had a multimedia company, Granity Studios, which produced the ESPN+ series Detail and the podcast “The Punies.” Additionally, he oversaw the publication of four sports fantasy children’s books, the last of which, The Wizenard Series: Season One, is set to hit bookstores on March 31.

He was a supporter of Special Olympics, gave back to the community and loved inspiring the next generation. For how busy he was, Kobe picked his daughters up from school and coached Gianna’s youth basketball team.

To L.A., he was just another dad in the neighborhood.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

How can this be?

I watched his early career. I witnessed the Lakers three-peat. I followed the sexual assault case. I watched his 60-point career-ending game against Utah. I followed everything in between. Kobe wasn’t perfect, but damn sure tried to be. When he messed up, he worked to be better. No fake apologies. He learned.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way.

I cried the night he scored 60-points against the Jazz. And I’m crying tonight.

Kobe Bryant is gone.

How can this be?

I can watch all the tributes, read all the stories and scroll through all the social media posts, it will never feel real.

Kobe Bryant is gone and it’s not fair. Los Angeles lost an icon. The world lost a legend. And a little bit of my heart for basketball is now missing.