BIGGER THAN BASKETBALL

Kobe Bryant

On Sunday, Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. Eight other people also died, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi.”

When I heard the news, I was as shocked as anyone, but I was not emotionally affected. He was not a personal friend of mine or a member of my family, so I did not cry or become upset at his passing. I never knew Bryant personally. I didn’t even really have much of a fan/professional athlete relationship with him. I probably only watched him play a handful of times. So, I can’t speak to his basketball legacy, and I’ll let others more qualified pay those respects with their tributes. All I can say is he was an unbelievably talented basketball player who led the Los Angeles Lakers to two championships.

Sports are important in my life, but Kobe Bryant was never one of my icons. When Larry Bird or Michael Jordan passes away, I will likely be more affected. At the very least, I met Bird before his NBA career and watched both play many more times than Bryant.

The story of Bryant’s death shot around the world in seconds. I thought of the others who died. None of it was fair. We are losing far too many of the good people in this world and not finding enough replacements that meet the standard. By all accounts, Bryant was doing his best to spend more time with his family. He was trying to be a better father and husband. It is a shame we will never see that second life he building blossom decades from now. I read his poem from The Player’s Tribune and mourn what might have been.

I’m aware of his rape trial, but now is not the time to revisit this black mark on Bryant. Speaking ill of the dead is uncivilized. Personally, all I remember about this incident was the giant apology ring he gave his wife and that she did forgive him. Who am I to judge another person’s relationship? I don’t believe Bryant was a saint, and I’m sure those who have survived sexual abuse and trauma aren’t happy he is being celebrated all across the media.

Who am I to judge how another person manages their grief?

Will Leitch, writing for New York Magazine, laid out Bryant’s post-player career and it honestly surprised me.

Since retiring from the NBA, Kobe had laid down a framework for an athlete’s post-retirement life that was as groundbreaking a template as his Hall of Fame on-court career was for active players. He founded and ran a company, Kobe Inc. that worked in sports branding and ended up earning him more than $200 million when Coca-Cola bought one of the companies he’d invested in. He started a venture capital firm. He hosted his own streaming television show for ESPN. He partnered with a multisport training academy for young athletes. He became an outspoken critic of the president during a time when players were finding their political voices more and more. He published a number of books. An outreach program in China made him the most popular player in the country still, five years after he left the game. He retained one of the best-selling shoe brands for Nike. He won a freaking Oscar.

Kobe fit more into his four year post basketball career than most humans could stuff into several lifetimes. And he’d only been out for a few years. He was still, somehow, only 41.

And Kobe wasn’t just thriving and evolving with his businesses. In recent years, his four daughters (including a baby born just last June), and his place in their life, began to take center stage. His daughter Gigi had become an up-and-coming basketball player herself, and Kobe was her coach; a clip of Kobe explaining a basketball concept to her daughters was his last viral moment in a lifetime of them.

I have no doubt he would have excelled in his after professional basketball life. He was already prospering, and he’d only been out of the game a few years. As Leitch says, he was just getting started.

In a 2008 interview, Kobe Bryant spoke with Priya David about his inspiration for creating The Kobe Bryant Basketball Academy. In the interview, he expresses what he wanted the young people who attended the camp to learn.

“Have a good time. Enjoy life. Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile, and just keep on rolling.”

Life is too short. It is filled with happiness and laughter, as well as sorrow and tears. There isn’t much to say, but to remind everyone to treat life like the precious jewel it is. Don’t take unnecessary risks, but put yourself out there and work hard. Find your passion. Don’t let go of your dreams. Tell the girl or boy you love them. Jump into the world and live because it’s the only life you’ve got.

My heart goes out to the families of everyone lost to this senseless crash. It is a reminder never to take for granted the time we have with loved ones. While I’m not personally grief-stricken, there are others right now experiencing unimaginable grief and heartbreak.

When a tragedy like this happens, it is a reminder that curveballs come at the most inopportune time. At any given moment, a more personal tragedy could befall any one of us. We have no control. I never want it to be too late to tell the people I love that I do indeed love them very much.

Make the most of the opportunities before you. Don’t wait for a tragedy to tell someone you love them, be with them, and cherish them. Enjoy life with the ones who make you happy.

For so many young people, Bryant was their inspiration. It is inspiring to watch someone play the game with such intensity and passion. You can learn to harness your own passion by taking a page out of Bryant’s all too brief time here.

He was larger-than-life and one of the greatest basketball players ever to play the game. It did not come easy. He had immense talent, but he worked incredibly hard for years. He had tremendous discipline to become the player he was.

Everyone can take inspiration for how Bryant worked and loved his passion. Not everyone will reach his heights, but we can all work with that same intensity. We can all take his work ethic and channel it into our pursuits.

Kobe Bryant was always an inspiration. What lessons can you learn from a life well lived?