What Kobe Bryant Meant to Me
I don’t know quite what to say about Kobe Bryant. But seeing as how this site is a culmination of my experiences and thoughts, it’s impossible to carry forward and ignore the shocking tragedy of his passing, the loss of his daughter, and all the other lives on that helicopter.
Growing up with two older basketball-loving brothers, it was predetermined for me that I would be a Lakers fan. During the Kobe-Shaq era, I have vivid memories of my entire family gathering in the den – some sitting, some standing anxiously by the television – cheering every play and lamenting every “bad call.”
I’ll never forget one moment during the 2000 NBA playoffs. My brothers had done something to hurt my feelings, and I was out for revenge. But everyone was completely consumed with the Lakers vs. Portland game that was going on at the time. Out of desperation for attention and retaliation, I cheered “Go PORTLAND!” after they scored their next basket. The air left the room. My brothers turned to look at me in disgust. I immediately back tracked. Apologies were not accepted. I may have been escorted out of the room. 20 years later, and I have still not lived that down. (I didn’t mean it, I swear!)
Because for our family, the Lakers were THE TEAM. And for so long, the biggest part of that team was Kobe Bryant. Whether the Lakers were in the middle of a three-peat, or struggling to make the playoffs, you knew what to expect from Kobe. His determination was so reliable that we often took it for granted. Everyone knows that Kobe does not accept losing. Does not accept a lack of effort. And not in a marketable, “leave it all out on the court” type of way. (which he always did) But in a fight you at practice, yell at you at halftime, get a technical on the court type of way.
Confession time: Kobe Bryant often wasn't my favorite Lakers player. During the Kobe-Shaq era, I was Team Shaq all day. After Shaq left, I found myself gravitating towards players like Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Sasha Vujcacic, and Dwight Howard. Notice a pattern? More often than not, I found I could relate more to the sometimes goofy, mostly laid back, but naturally talented players. Which completely summarizes my athletic career playing soccer and running track. Sure, I wanted to win. But having fun was important too, right?
According to Kobe, no. No it wasn't. I'll let his words describe it: "Winning takes precedence over all. There’s no gray area. No almosts.”
And that's why he was great. he had that perspective and he was willing to do the work to back it up. And while I didnt apply that philosophy to sports (I didn't have the natural talent to cash that check) I applied that perspective to other areas of my life. And that's what Kobe meant to me. You have to practice, practice, practice. And then you go out and you DO. There is no try. And if you fail, you practice again until the next opportunity, and you do again.
After five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, and numerous awards and records, he retired. It felt sort of like your favorite long-running show was ending. You knew it was the right time, maybe even a little overdue, but you’re still sad to see it happen. What will you watch now? Whose journey will inspire you and captivate you?
I think Kobe will continue to be that inspiration for a lot of people. He will live on in the memories of those that flashback to his two free throws while hobbled with a torn Achilles. Others will recall his record 81-point game in 2006. And the list goes on; there’s so many career-defining moments that will be cherished and remembered by basketball fans forever.
All that considered, let’s remember he was so much more than a basketball player. He was a husband, a father, a son, a friend, a mentor. He was a person that loved and was loved. It’s amazing that he was able to impact so many people all over the world. But at the end of the day, it’s our close circle of family and friends that matters most, isn’t it?
While the world is without a legend, his kids are without a father, wife without a husband, and that’s the real tragedy. Compounding that grief is the loss of his daughter, Gianna. A young life lost much, much too soon.
Hopefully, with grief, comes lessons. Death is something that will happen to all of us. And if Kobe taught me anything, it’s that you have to do what you can when you can, and not be afraid of what comes next. Life is short, and none of us knows how much time we have.
I’ll end it with this quote from Kobe when he was speaking about his retirement.
“There is beauty in that. I mean, it's going through the cycle. It's the cycle that is the natural progression of growth, of maturation. There's no sadness in that ...”