On Friday, I broke away from the spell-binding coverage of the Impeachment to join dozens of men who had come from around the country to spend the weekend in the Wild Adventure Reunion.
Their initiation to the WA fraternity happened in Montana, when a dozen men – over the course of nearly a week – blend world-class fly fishing with a facilitated discovery of who God made them to be, and what the Enemy has done to compromise that divine design.
On Friday, WA’s founder – Jan Janura – led an exchange with Hugh Hewitt. Hugh’s time in Montana made him one of the guys; his public press cites his travels through Harvard and law school at the University of Michigan, his roles in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, his teaching at Chapman University School of Law, and his daily syndicated radio program. One question from Jan to Hugh: beyond and above the fray of what’s swirling within the Beltway today – and bouncing from blue-coast to blue-coast – what are the real issues of life?
Hugh’s thoughtful response was spot-on: “Four things: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell; if you don’t get that right, nothing else matters…”
I had to leave the Reunion before the finale; Sunday morning, I flew out of my home airport – John Wayne, in Orange County – heading for the session I’ll lead for The Master’s Program today. My flight left at 7:45a…
About an hour later, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter left John Wayne headed for Thousand Oaks with nine people on board. It’s 81 miles on the road, about 60 if you’re flying. The marine layer over the Southern California coastline was dense the last few mornings; the weather caused the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to ground their helicopters, but the Sikorsky was in the air… until it wasn’t. Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the nine who were on their way to Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy for a basketball tournament (his nickname in the NBA was “Black Mamba”).
“Words can’t describe the pain I am feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me,” retired NBA great Michael Jordan said. “We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”
Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific shot-maker with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.
He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams. He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. All of those stats and history became irrelevant to Kobe yesterday: for him, the only issues that mattered were death, judgment, Heaven and Hell.
Kobe was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition; he didn’t address faith often, publicly. At 9:45a yesterday – when the helicopter went down – his personal position regarding Jesus Christ became the only question before him. Paul put it this way: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-16). News reports will focus on the worldly point of view as they cover this tragedy; what’s the bigger story?
I’m with Hugh Hewitt and the Apostle Paul: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell; anything else is temporary and trivial. I hope Kobe was on a first-name basis with the Lord Jesus…