This post can’t be real. There’s no way.

You’ve almost certainly heard by now that Kobe Bryant passed away yesterday in a tragic helicopter crash, along with his 13-year old daughter and seven others.

I found out on a flight from Tampa, FL, to Denver, CO, and I had to fight back tears for the better part of three hours.

In the time afterwards, I questioned why this was affecting me so much. I was never a Lakers fan and I liked watching Kobe play, but it wasn’t the drop-whatever-you’re-doing fascination that I had with Jordan.

As I reflected, I realized it was the culmination of a few factors:

I grew up with Kobe. Not literally; I didn’t know him. But I remember when he was drafted into the NBA as a 17-year old and I watched him mature before my very eyes. And because we’re roughly the same age–he was 41 when he passed–it felt like we grew up together. The good (5 chips, 18-time all star, 81 point game), the bad (4 airballs in the fourth quarter of closeout playoff game his rookie season), and the ugly (Eagle, CO)–I saw it all. I lived it.

His generosity. In this case, here’s how Outperformers define it:

Generosity: The art of giving ALL of yourself to something.

He did this with the game. He had a legendary work ethic and relentless pursuit of greatness that is rarely seen. BUT, when you do see it, you know it. You can FEEL it–in any area, in any field, in any industry. It’s transcendent.

He was unapologetically…him. Kobe had plenty of enemies in the NBA, mostly those that couldn’t match his intensity and dedication. But he never hid or suppressed who he was out of fear of rubbing people the wrong way. He had no desire to be bland white rice. Love it or hate it; you had to RESPECT it. I always did.

His second act. One of the first seminars I went to when I was studying sport psychology was helping recently-retired NFL players transition successfully from being a football player to “real life.” It’s an area in which many pro athletes struggle, and when you’re Kobe Bryant, how do you possibly channel all that competitive fire and drive towards something that’s going to be 1/100th as fulfilling as playing in the NBA?

But he did it. Perhaps better than anyone. He won an Oscar for his short story, Dear Basketball, was creatively producing other content for kids and was actively coaching his daughter’s basketball team.

This is probably the part that hit the hardest: There’s no one that respects athletic excellence more than me, but by all accounts, Kobe’s second act as a “soccer dad” and global ambassador for kids may have been even greater than his first act.

Sadly, we’ll never know.

You hear all the time that “life is short,” but it truly is. We all have one future meeting that cannot be rescheduled. So, in the mean time, work hard, be you and channel your energy towards something that helps others AND makes you happy.

God bless everyone affected by the tragedy.