Colbert recalls losing his father and two brothers in an airplane crash due to dense fog, similar to the conditions that took down Bryant’s helicopter.
Stephen Colbert may have never had the chance to meet Kobe Bryant personally, but he still feels a “strange connection” to the NBA legend who died tragically in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
“One that I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” he told his audience. As the “Late Show” was off on Monday, he and his bandleader John Batiste didn’t have an opportunity to reflect on Bryant’s legacy and loss until Tuesday’s show.
“I feel a strange connection to his family and his friends and those who loved him and those who’ve gone through this particular tragedy,” he shared. “Because I lost my father and two of my brothers when I was a boy to a plane crash that was also in heavy fog.”
Colbert took careful time to read the names of each of the victims’ families to honor them equally to Bryant, as the most public figure of this crash that took nine lives, including Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
“One of the terrible things about that shock and the heartbreaking unreality, nightmare quality of some huge in your life who just disappears, the center of your love disappearing in that moment, is not knowing what happened,” Colbert said.
For him, his family was able to get some closure, as well as some sense that their loss affected change in the world. Thanks to the black box recording of the final moments of that flight on September 11, 1974, the airline industry enacted the sterile cockpit rule in an effort to ensure that no flight would go down like that again.
From here, Colbert went on to talk about how helicopters don’t have black boxes, and so it’s more difficult for us to learn from these kinds of tragedies, or take corrective measures to minimize similar crashes from happening in the future. It is his hope that this event can precipitate some change to help families in the future from suffering as these families are.
John Batiste, who spent Sunday at the Grammy Awards in the Staples Center, talked about the “mournful, reflective mood” of the room that night. “It felt as if we’d lost something very important and had been reminded, collectively, of something also very important that we have to face,” he said.
He said that this kind of loss reminds us that “life is just a vapor.” He went on to clarify, “We’re here and even the mighty among us, those that seem like they’ll live forever, the immortal ones can be gone, just like that. With all the greatness that he left in the world, it seemed like he had so much more to go.”
Batiste did have a brief opportunity to meet Kobe back in 2008 — “Prime Kobe” as he called the Lakers legend then — when he played at the All-Star Game.
“I remember just looking at him, he was a giant to me; I’d never seen him in person, he was so tall,” Batiste said. “He just comes over and he’s so warm to me and everybody that’s performing. It just felt like he was just as great a person, as personable as he was great on the basketball court.”
Kobe is survived by his wife Vanessa and the couple’s three other children; Natalia, Bianca and Capri.
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