Derek Jeter will always remember Kobe Bryant for something bigger than basketball

Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant didn’t play the same sport. They weren’t stars in the same city. But they always felt a bit like kindred spirits. They were winners. They delivered on the biggest stages. They carried themselves with a quiet intensity that amazed those around them.

In the same week, Jeter got elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Kobe died tragically — in a helicopter crash Sunday at age 41. The crash also killed his second-oldest daughter Gianna, just 13 years old.

Another thing about Bryant and Jeter, they were fathers to daughters — four for Kobe, two for Jeter.

So when Jeter reacted to the news of Bryant’s untimely passing, he didn’t focus on all the accolades on the court. He said he’ll always remember a different Kobe. Kobe the father.

Jeter delivered his Kobe memorial on The Players’ Tribune, writing:

“[W]hen I think of Kobe, I really just end up thinking about those special few personal conversations that we were lucky enough to share together, each time one of us had a new baby daughter. I end up thinking about how, here was this guy who was beyond gifted as an athlete, who was obsessed with being a champion, who was known as an absolute assassin with a ball in his hands. And in the moments I got to spend with him? He didn’t really talk about any of that. He cared much more about being a husband to Vanessa and a dad to his girls. He loved his family — he was his family. That’s what was important.”

Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant at a Lakers game last month. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Family is taking the biggest loss here. Three daughters don’t have their father now. A wife doesn’t have her husband. A mother, her child. The crash also fractured another family, as college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa also died. They leave behind another daughter and a son.

Sports are about athleticism and competition, but they’re also about family. And you see that whether it’s Kobe sitting courtside with Gianna talking about basketball or Jeter listening with his daughters when he got his Hall of Fame call.

What you see there is a lot of what Jeter wrote about Kobe:

“Kobe just loved being a dad. And when it comes to his legacy, I really hope we’re able to take the time to remember that as an essential part of it.”

Different sports, different cities, but same team. Team Dad.

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