In the wake of the tragic helicopter accident that claimed the lives of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven other people, many have been pondering the meaning of life and re-thinking their life journey.
The takeaway from this tragedy seems to be fairly universal, though: Appreciate life, spend time with the ones you love, live a life truly worth living—because you just never know when your time is up.
It shouldn’t shock anyone if Manny Pacquiao, who mourned the 18-time all-star’s passing along with the rest of the world, may have been reminded of these important life lessons.
“Life is too short in this world,” Pacquiao said at a National Bible Day function in his native Philippines after the deaths. “So make sure you have a personal relationship to God. You have a strong relationship and you obey God.”
It wasn’t the first time the Filipino icon and multi-division world champ had addressed the passing of the fellow icon he considered a friend.
“We, the Filipino nation, offer our sympathies to one of our idols in basketball,” Pacquiao told members of the Filipino media. “Let’s pray to God that they can move on and receive God.”
Manny’s relationship with Bryant dates back to 2011, when the NBA star came to visit the future Hall of Famer at the Wild Card Gym while Manny trained for his third bout with Juan Manuel Marquez.
Bryant had come to view Pacquiao train and to pick up any insight into new ways to improve conditioning. The two icons met, shook hands, and were equally impressed to be in the other’s presence. Although they had been together before for photo-ops, this was their first real meeting and it touched off a long-distance interest in each other’s work.
“He went crazy when Kobe came in that day,” said Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach. “That was unbelievable. It was the best day of his life, I think.”
“Manny asked him about basketball and shooting and how to become a better player,” Roach continued. “He’s not shy about asking questions. Manny still plays basketball every day. He has an indoor court at his house. He’s a fanatic about basketball. I know losing Kobe is a really great loss to Manny as well as the whole world.”
So, what does the untimely passing of a legend close to his heart have to do with Manny Pacquiao and his career?
Following Pacquiao’s WBA welterweight title-nabbing win over Keith Thurman last summer, real big-fight possibilities haven’t been falling at his feet like his team had likely hoped. Talk of a Floyd Mayweather rematch, despite briefly being brought back to life through some well-placed rumors, has died down considerably. A unification bout with WBC/IBF 147 lb. champ Errol Spence—if it was ever a thought—became unlikely after Spence suffered injuries in an ugly late-night car crash last fall. Even a starry-eyed UFC vs. boxing spectacle with Conor McGregor has pretty much been wiped from being a possibility amid legal threats from the UFC and warnings from Team Pacquiao that it might be an embarrassing spectacle that tarnishes his legacy.
Manny can fight anyone he wants to. But, realistically, any fight he has should be big, fitting of a farewell fight at the end of a legendary career. Danny Garcia is out there, but, while that’s a good fight, it wouldn’t make for an epic event. Neither would bouts against Mikey Garcia, Yordenis Ugas, or any other top, available welterweight.
What that leaves is retirement and, as Kobe Bryant’s death may have reminded him, the pressing need to spend more time with loved ones and appreciate the little things in life possibly overlooked while living the life of a warrior.
If Manny really sat down to think about things, at his age and with so little left to prove in the sport, he could easily decide to spend his time with his wife and children rather than in pursuit of yet another prizefight.
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