May 31, 2020 | 3:01pm
Shock and tragedy are a constant in 2020, beginning with Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others being killed in a helicopter crash. But in the aftermath of George Floyd’s needless death, Vanessa Bryant is reminded how much hasn’t changed her husband was alive.
Hearing Floyd helplessly say “I can’t breathe” as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck — and watching the countless protests and riots across the country this week — Vanessa Bryant was of many brought back to 2014, when Eric Garner uttered the same words, while being choked to death by police in Staten Island, prompting Kobe and several other players to honor Garner’s memory with shirts emblazoned with the heartbreaking quote.
“My husband wore this shirt years ago and yet here we are again.💔#ICANTBREATHE,” Vanessa Bryant wrote on Instagram. ” Life is so fragile. Life is so unpredictable. Life is too short. Let’s share and embrace the beautiful qualities and similarities we all share as people. Drive out hate. Teach respect and love for all at home and school. Spread LOVE. Fight for change- register to VOTE. Do not use innocent lives lost as an excuse to loot. BE AN EXAMPLE OF THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE. #BLACKLIVESMATTER ❤️.”
Bryant organized for nearly all of the Lakers to wear the shirts, also sported by LeBron James, Derrick Rose and members of the Brooklyn Nets.
“I think it’s us supporting that movement and supporting each other,” Bryant said in 2014. “The beauty of our country lies in its democracy. I think if we ever lose the courage to be able to speak up for the things that we believe in, I think we really lose the value that our country stands for.”
NBA players, past and present, have been outspoken about Floyd’s death, including James and Donovan Mitchell. Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns attended a rally in Minneapolis, along with former player Stephen Jackson, a friend of Floyd’s. The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours to participate in a protest in his native Atlanta, joined by the Pacers’ Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson, of the Long Island Nets.
“I drove 15 hours to get to Georgia, my community,” Brown said on Instagram Live. “This is a peaceful protest. Being a celebrity, being an NBA player don’t exclude me from no conversations at all. First and foremost I’m a black man and I’m a member of this community… We’re raising awareness for some of the injustices that we’ve been seeing. It’s not OK.
“As a young person, you’ve got to listen to our perspective. Our voices need to be heard. I’m 23 years old. I don’t know all of the answers, but I feel how everybody else is feeling, for sure. No question.”
Brown also posted a picture, featuring a sign, reading: “I can’t breathe.”