Maybe you needed to check a second, third or fourth news source Sunday afternoon when you heard the news that Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash. You definitely weren’t alone.

Maybe after coming to grips that the Los Angeles Lakers legend was really gone, you thought about where you were when you heard the news that Elvis, Michael Jackson or Dale Earnhardt were gone.

Even though “Jailhouse Rock,” “Thriller” and the #3 will live on for years after the people that made them immortal, we’ve all got to eventually say goodbye to the ones we admire for taking their skills to stellar levels.

Whether you care about the NBA or not, chances are you knew who Kobe Bryant was. Being drafted straight out of high school to the pros, he spent a 20-year career living larger than life on the basketball court.

Anchoring the Lakers for several seasons, scoring 33,643 points in his career and being a driving force behind the team’s NBA championship three-peat in the early 2000s were all products of hard work, which led to a worldwide name for Kobe.

When the Princes and Robin Williams of this world leave us sobbing in the purple rain before they’re done sharing their gifts with the world, it makes us all stop and mourn a little. It’s not like we’ve ever met these people or probably ever been inside the same stadium with a lot of them, but it’s their words, mannerisms and influence that may drive us through our days.

Back in 1992, as a high school freshman, Kobe was probably singing along to that “Be Like Mike” Gatorade commercial striving for his own greatness. A few seasons later, he shared the court and eventually became friends with one of the game’s greatest – Michael Jordan.

Tracey Lawrence released the country song, “If the Good Die Young,” in 1994, and the video was a tribute to NASCAR racers Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki, who died the year before in helicopter and airplane crashes, respectively.

Those two names may not be quite as familiar as the Carrie Fishers and Kurt Cobains of the world, but younger NASCAR drivers you know now probably looked up to them with pride when they were kids.

Other lesser-known names of the past, such as PGA golfer Payne Stewart, who was among the passengers who died on a flight in 1999 due to a loss of cabin pressure, probably influenced others you look up to today too.

Sunday afternoons spent watching sports lead to Sunday nights and Mondays after school trying to imitate living legends. Nailing somebody else’s guitar solo or the timing of a joke in recreating somebody else’s skit works the exact same way.

The original “Beverly Hills 90210” couldn’t have had Jason Priestley’s coolness and style without James Dean’s look and influence. Somebody is always going to rub off on someone else.

To the teachers out there, teach responsibly. To the preachers out there, preach responsibly. To the influencers out there, be aware of what you’re doing. In somebody’s mind, you’re all larger than life.

It’s hard to imagine a small town without some of our more recognizable names, especially when those names make you famous in these parts. What you’re doing influential now is rubbing off on others striving for their own greatness.

Princess Leia, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and #8 and #24 Lakers jerseys are timeless and will live on and influence for generations to come.

When figures known nationally or worldwide fall, it’s a sobering reminder that no one is here forever. How you live, influence and strive for your own greatness, though, is a completely different beast. Whatever you’re proud of doing in life, make it great, make it something people want to imitate and make it timeless.

Monroe Journal

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