BY TITO S. TALAO
DUBAI — News of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant hours before a Philippine Basketball Association contingent flew to Milan before midnight Monday for its annual program and planning session has seeped into key points of discussion calendared for board deliberation weeks ago.
Reports of Bryant’s demise, along that of his 13-year-old daughter and seven others, from a helicopter crash at a hillside near Los Angeles in hazy weather conditions have drawn feelings of horror, utter disbelief and numbed acceptance worldwide.
The PBA board of governors, set to lay the groundwork for preparations leading up to the 45th season celebration, the league’s involvement in the formation of the Gilas nationals teams, both in the 3×3 and 5×5 events, proposed rule modifications and the PBA’s digital transformation, among others, collectively expressed shock at the horrific end of the retired NBA superstar whose fame transcended basketball and its reach.
Robert Non, former chairman and now governor of the San Miguel Beermen, initially read about it via Facebook message from a US-based nephew.
“Kako, ‘totoo ba ‘to?’” Non said. “Baka kasi fake news lang e.”
When more detailed accounts came in confirming the earlier message, Non was left aghast.
“Mahirap paniwalaan kasi icon siya e. Saka napakabata pa niya. Tapos kasama pa yung anak niya.”
“Shock talaga ako nang mabalitaan ko,” said Barangay Ginebra San Miguel governor Alfrancis Chua. “Sobrang tragic yung nangyari.”
Erick Arejola, the NorthPort board representative, agonized even more at the thought of Bryant’s daughter.
“Siempre ama ako. Ang epekto sa’kin e yung sa anak nong pabagsak na yung helicopter; yung helplessness ng ama na ma-save daughter niya nong time na yon,” Arejola said. “Yun ang masakit lalo para sa’kin.”
Dickie Bachmann, governor of the Alaska Aces, said the circumstances of Bryant’s death was what made it all the more incomprehensible.
“How he passed is why it affected everyone so much,” Bachmann said. “Even in practice, when I got there Monday, the mood of everybody was down. Lahat kasi don is either Kobe or [Michael] Jordan or LeBron [James].”
In fact, Bachmann even had to deal with an unusual request that morning from Abu Tratter, their first round pick in 2018.
“We have a rule kasi in pratice that players have to wear shoes that are either red, white or black,” Bachmann said. “Tratter came to me and asked if he could wear [purple-and-gold-colored] Kobe Bryant shoes that day as a sort of tribute to his idol, which I, of course, allowed.”
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, who led the PBA delegation in its annual sojourn, had earlier issued this statement:
“The PBA has lost a dear friend in Kobe Bryant who leaves behind fond memories of seven unforgettable visits to our country. Kobe was an exceptional basketball player but beyond his athletic skills, he was known for his caring heart and love of family.
His life was an inspiration and a lesson to everyone that with hard work, dedication and self-sacrifice, nothing is impossible. At 41, Kobe is gone too soon but his legacy will last forever. The PBA mourns the passage of a man who has touched the lives of millions.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family along with the families of those whose lives were lost in that fatal helicopter crash.
“Rest in peace, Kobe.”
A PBA Evening of Tribute for Kobe Bryant perhaps, Commissioner?