Kobe Bryant, My Hero

The notification one the man’s phone sang a tune.

Apparently, it played the same jingle each time a notification came from the BBC World app because he recognized it immediately without looking at his phone.

Before he pulled it out of his pocket, “Ah BBC World. If it’s from them, you know it’s important!” He said with a chuckle.

He chose to read the notification out loud. When he did, the mood completely changed. “Kobe Bryant dies in aa helicopter accident. Multiple dead.”

My ears perk up. I was merely half-listening before; now he has my full attention.

The man turns to me, “I don’t know who that is. Do you?”

I was in shock, literal shock at the news. This can’t be. Kobe was just tweeting and on Instagram recently. He was happy and healthy with his family.

I quickly grab my phone. This must be some weird joke. My phone’s been on silent, I’ve been missing the notification from apps and friends. It’s true. But I still chose not to believe it.

“Are you sure its Kobe Bryant? Kobe Bean Bryant?” I ask, hoping that the man somehow accidentally said the wrong name.

The man looks at me with concern, “Are you going to be okay? You look visibly upset and shocked.”

I don’t know what condition was in, but I felt genuine confusion and disbelief. Kobe Bryant was just in the news a day ago. There’s no way he’s gone.

In the moment, I gather my breath and chose not to burden the man with my feelings, my oh so many feelings, “Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. I was fortunate to have him on my favorite team for 20 years. I don’t think we have enough time for me to explain how much I’ve learned from him. He is my hero.

The man nodded in understanding and left the room.

I sit.
I check multiple sources.
I can’t help the tears beginning to fall.
Kobe is dead. One of my biggest heroes is gone.

 

Sometimes it is hard to explain the importance of a person in your life.

You could say a partner means the world to you because they provide love and affection.
Or a child can provide you with possibility and a future.
While God can provide purpose and a standard.

However, how do I begin to explain the importance of someone who I’ve never met? It almost seems silly to have allowed me to be influenced by someone so much, even to the point of today’s tears. A person who has never once cried for me. Is it wrong to have such strong feelings for a man who doesn’t know my name or even recognize my face?

Wrong or not, here I am. Broken hearted, shocked, and confused at the passing of Kobe Bryant, I still don’t want to believe it. It feels wrong. I pray for his family and the families of those involved in the accident and hope this is just a bad dream.

 

Kobe Bryant is one of my heroes for a variety of reasons. I’ve learned so much about basketball from him. I learned how to compete from him. I learned life skills from him.

The most important lesson that Kobe taught me was work ethic. As I grew into adulthood, I realized I had a problem. I don’t know how to consistently work hard. Sure there were people in my life that I worked hard with for a moment, a day, or for a short term goal. I have always been one of those people who is good at everything. I rarely needed to apply any extra effort outside of my casual talent.

I needed to learn how to work hard daily. I needed to learn how to work hard for a goal that is months, or even years away. I needed to see what it is like to work day in and day out on a goal that may take years to achieve. I needed a lesson on how to consistently work to a goal even when I failed time after time.

Kobe showed me that.

With every private gym session that was leaked to the public, with his consistent study of his craft, with his zero tolerance for those who chose not to work hard, Kobe taught me how to give my all in what I do, every day and night.

Work hard daily, never give up until the mission is complete. When you fail one way, try something different. When you see others outperforming you, learn a new trick to step ahead of them. When you finally find success, find a way to push yourself to achieve higher success.

That’s the most important lesson Kobe’s taught me. Every other lesson starts and ends with this one.

 

I like my heroes to be flawed. You see character in their lows. I remember one of the lowest times in Kobe Bryant’s life. As a fan, I only witnessed a piece of what he went through. He was caught committing adultery, he lost a child in a miscarriage, he lost the NBA finals, he lost some great teammates.

From my perspective, I had never seen a more popular man so alone.

Kobe Bryant showed me even the greats will fail. Some of these failures are bigger than others. Some failures are more public than others. Yet redemption can still be found in every single one.

At this point, he achieved enough success that he could walk away and still be considered a Hall of Fame player. He could start a new life outside of the limelight with less pressure to perform. Instead, he went to work.

Over time he was redeemed. He put in the effort and changed who he was. He showed his teammates a new side and he earned a new appreciation. He mended his broken relationship in his family. He eventually added more championships to his resume for the Los Angeles Lakers.

He owned up to his actions. Admitted his faults. Gave people the time they needed away from him. After taking ownership, he worked hard to gain respect. He worked hard to become someone new. His redemption didn’t happen overnight. It was at least a year of separation from his wife. It was years before he made the championship round again, and more until he actually won. He worked, every day, even when there seemed to be no progress form the day, month, or year before.

He worked hard.

I don’t believe in retirement anymore. One of the reasons why is because of Kobe. Once he walked away from basketball, he completely walked away. He didn’t keep one foot in the past, he moved on, acknowledging one volume of his life is complete. The next volume brought new ideas.

Kobe earned more than enough to sit and enjoy the rest of his life doing whatever he and his family wanted. Yet instead, shortly after he left the NBA, he became a writer and businessman. He started a sports drink company. He won’t prose which eventually turned into an Oscar winning animated short film.

I think that is one of the luxuries of giving your all in one area. You have the freedom to say, that is done, I can now fully give myself to the next stage in life. I can adjust my goals to the moment I’m in and work just as hard before in a new area.

To me, retirement should not exist. Rather, reinvention should take its place. It allows you to keep working hard, keep the mind creative, to constantly be learning.

It’s the lesson Kobe Bryant continually teaches me. Work hard every day on whatever your passion is.

Rest in peace, my hero.
Heroes may die, but legends, and lessons, live forever.