All day Sunday I was glued to the tube watching the news reports about the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, along with seven other people, in a fiery helicopter crash in California.

When it happened, the program I was watching was interrupted, and coverage didn’t end for many hours as I switched between cable news channels and ESPN.

Bryant’s death is a reminder that we need to live each day to the fullest because we’re only promised today. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, male or female, or young or old. When it’s our time, it’s over on this earth.

I thought I knew a lot about Bryant’s career and his impact on the lives of others across the globe, but my eyes were opened even more as I watched the news coverage.

As was said on more than one occasion, what made regular folks relate to Bryant (an ultra rich superstar) is he was a human being, with flaws, with a wide range of interests beyond the basketball court.

My awareness about Bryant’s impact on the game was expanded exponentially when I heard interviews with those who were my heroes (i.e. – Dr. J and Jerry West) back in the day when all I thought about was basketball.

As I watched the coverage Sunday I thought about the untimely and/or tragic deaths of people I’ve known much more personally.

Clay Gillis’ death in a tragic private plane crash at Hobby Airport came to mind first.

I learned about Gillis’ death in much the same way I learned about Bryant’s death.

In both instances, I had just sat down and turned on the television when the news of their deaths broke.

Gillis had recently changed jobs (leaving the Aransas County ISD for the Gregory-Portland ISD) and had young daughters living at home when he died. His daughters babysat our daughters when they were young.

Bryant had just changed jobs. He was no longer an NBA superstar. He was a husband, father and businessman.

As I watched the coverage of Bryant’s death, I mentally traveled back almost 20 years to the time when I was Bryant’s age, and had daughters at home.

Then, I thought about everything that has happened in my life since that time.

It’s hard to imagine my not being able to live all the highs and lows of the last 20 years.

We are often given lessons from above through tragedy, and I don’t think Bryant’s untimely death is any different.

At some point my life on this earth will end, as well. At that point any material possessions will be meaningless. My impact on others, and the memories of time shared, is all that will be discussed.

As I write this, I still haven’t heard any mention of the material things Bryant had.

I don’t recall ever hearing anything about Gillis’ assets.

How we impact the lives of others – positively or negatively – is the unwritten message that will be placed on our tombstones.

Until next week, have a good week.

Mike Probst can be reached at

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