Everyone has someone they looked up to as a child, someone who instilled core values and inspired them to be the best they could be.
For most people, it’s their parents. For others, it’s an older sibling, a coach, or a teacher. For me, it was and forever will be basketball icon Kobe Bean Bryant, who along with eight other passengers, passed away on Jan. 26, 2020 from a helicopter incident in Calabasas, California.
To properly contextualize the situation, Kobe was ‘more than an athlete’ long before current Los Angeles Lakers great LeBron James properly marketed the responsibility inherits upon putting on a jersey in front of millions of viewers. To me, the measure of a person is his/her ability to be known outside of the community that he/she directly influences and as trash bins all over the world can attest to, Kobe has certainly eclipsed that litmus test many times over.
What was most weird waking up on Monday morning was the realization there are so many seminal moments in my life that are directly associated with Kobe — most of them linked to how he indirectly pushed me to persevere through an obstacle.
I can recall swallowing a piece of gum before a math test in fourth grade to replicate Kobe playing through a bout with food poisoning against the Sacramento Kings — a game that he led the Lakers in minutes (40) and still managed to score 22 points.
I remember writing about the air balls that Kobe threw up in his rookie season against the Utah Jazz in the playoffs when my 7th grade class was prompted to write about ‘a challenging time’ during a literacy aptitude test that was required as entry for secondary school. I received an ‘exceeds expectations’ when I got the paper back.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve tapped into Kobe’s ability to convert a night where he shot 1-of-14 in a nationally televised game against the Golden State Warriors in mid-November to a 60-point curtain call against the Utah Jazz during his final season.
From here on out, there will be no more new memories to share as the time has now (prematurely) come to create moments of my own for others to draw light, hope, and positivity from.
In its own twisted way, the timing of Kobe’s passing is ever-so-poetic — a single day after LeBron supplanted him on the NBA’s all-time leading scoring list. Kobe’s final piece of public electronic communication was “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames, Much respect, my brother.”
And on a larger scale, passing away at this point in his life leaves the biggest impact (note: there is never, ever, ever a ‘right time’ for anyone to pass away, let’s keep that clear). The recollection of his playing days are still fresh and fond and the generation that grew up watching him are now growing into positions of influence and power in their respective professions.
While Kobe the man is no longer with us on this earth, I’d like to contend that his ethos of ‘Mamba Mentality’ is stronger than ever. The ‘Mamba Mentality’ is present in each of us that Kobe inspired to be the best that we can be at something; may that be basketball, writing, engineering, the fine arts, customer service, entrepreneurship, or even in insipid acts such as folding laundry.
The mission remains the same: stay relentless, work hard, and dream limitless in finding an innovative path in pursuit of said dream. Live unapologetically to the best of your own abilities with no regrets whenever the opportunity is made available to you as tomorrow is never promised. For at the end of your own life, may you have lived in a way where the world mourns at the loss, but you may rejoice knowing that you left absolutely nothing on the table.
Ultimately, yesterday is a reminder of what really matters in this life: wins and losses, monetary wealth and clout on social media, those things come and they go. What we are truly measured by is how deeply we loved and impacted those around us.
So, apply for that job. Book the trip you’ve always wanted to go on. Call that special someone you haven’t heard from for a while. Direct message (DM) the girl/boy of your dreams. This is the one life that we get, and it’s not meant to be treated as a dress rehearsal.
I’ve written 790 words up until this point, and they can all be summarized with three: Thank you, Kobe.
I will continue living my life as the son you never had so that when the time comes and we shake hands at Heaven’s Gate, you will be nothing but proud of the man that you indirectly raised.