January 31, 2020
Have you ever awakened to a bad morning, wishing that you could just go back to sleep and wake up to a better day?
I did. I waited and waited and waited, but the “better day” never came. A part of me wished it was all fake. But the truth steadily crept forward, along with the pain.
I may not know him personally, but I’m one of the millions around the world who got deeply affected by his sudden demise.
Perhaps it was because I lost a familiar figure whose career spanned most of my life—from my toddler years to my college years. My childhood hoops hero met his final buzzer.
Unexpected deaths like this remind us of how short and valuable life is. More than Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, may his life remind us to value our own and to make the most of our numbered days on earth.
Here are three lessons we can learn from Kobe’s life:
The hardcourt heroics people witnessed throughout his 20-year career seemed superhuman and borderline impossible. Even in the most difficult situation, Kobe would always find a way to win and wow the audience with his crazy shots and expert navigation of the hardcourt.
Kobe’s skills deeply captured a generation’s imagination, so much so that every trash can be a hoop and any crumpled piece of paper the ball. Basketball fans know what to yell afterward. (“Kobe!”)
But to Kobe, all those crazy stunts were just normal. His epic stunts during a 48-minute game were a result of thousands of hours spent in training to master the basics. He went to every game prepared. He studied his opponents, reviewed past games, and learned from other NBA giants including Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
Ironically, Kobe also holds the record for having the most missed shots—and it did not bother him. After all, when the game is on the line, what matters most was his guts to take the shot, win or lose. He kept failing, but he kept trying again. He embraced failure as a necessary step to keep improving.
Because of his grit and dedication, Kobe’s name eventually became listed as among the NBA greats whom he used to admire. He may not be as physically gifted or may not be as talented as some of them, but his hunger to learn and his grit to endure etched his name in basketball history.
“We’re not on this stage just because of talent or ability. We’re up here because of 4 a.m. We’re up here because of two-a-days or five-a-days. We’re up here because we had a dream and let nothing stand in our way. If anything tried to bring us down, we used it to make us stronger,” he said upon receiving his 2016 ESPY Icon Award.
Heroes are celebrated for their heroism. But heroes, like all human beings, are flawed, too. Yes, even more flawed than some.
In 2003, Kobe faced allegations of sexual assault that deeply wounded his reputation, his legacy, and his marriage.
After the case was settled, Kobe appeared in an interview with sports TV personality Stephen A. Smith and shared about the major lesson that he learned from the controversy.
To him, the simple lesson was that, “God is great.” Kobe said that you will never fully understand God’s greatness “until you have to pick up that cross that you can’t carry and He picks it up for you and carries you and the cross.”
True enough, he was able to bounce back from that controversy and emerged to become a family man. Kobe bounced back as a dedicated husband to Vanessa and a loving father of four young girls.
One thing’s for sure: People can change for the better. Kobe’s encounter with God at his darkest moment has changed him.
“Greatness is meant to be shared,” said Kobe in one of his interviews. “Unless it is shared, one’s greatness is worthless,” he said.
Kobe’s heart to mentor other people was most seen with how he brought with him his daughter, Gigi, in the NBA and college basketball games. Kobe was often seen mentoring her, breaking down the game for her, and even coaching her basketball team.
Even some of the biggest names in the NBA today have been mentored by Kobe. For them, Kobe was more than just a competitor on court; he was a friend and a mentor in real life. After his death, basketball stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving posted on social media and shared how Kobe taught them, checked up on them, celebrated milestones with them, and really journeyed with them.
“Every generation has a responsibility to teach the next,” Kobe said in his ESPY 2019 speech honoring Bill Russell.
After sustaining an Achilles injury in April 2013, Kobe’s life slowed down, giving him time to plan for his retirement, mentor people, and explore other ways to pursue his love for the game.
Kobe established Granity Studio and ventured into storytelling and content creation so as to teach the next generation how to see, appreciate, and love the game the way he did. In 2018, Kobe won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball.”
He also released a podcast called “The Punies” to encourage kids to enjoy sports as a passion. Kobe also released several children’s books to teach them to be passionate about sports in spite of the different challenges that come with it.
While his passing leaves a lot of questions of what else Kobe would have brought into the world, his short life ultimately made an impact on us.
And so I end with my favorite quote said by sports commentators whenever he played:
“Mama, there goes that man.”
PHOTO SOURCE: Ezra Shaw | Getty Images