As you crumple a piece of paper, and stare at the trash can. Suddenly, you are no longer in the classroom or office.
You’re in the middle of Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
The clock is winding down, and the Lakers are down by one. A defender bodies you up. You take the challenge on and you post up. You dribble that piece of paper on your hand as if it were a basketball. One second left, you pivot, and you fade away. As you let that piece of paper go, you yell out–
If you are a fan of the game, you are familiar with this scenario. You may have done it once (or maybe a hundred times) in your life. You’ve made some and missed others. All you know is, at that moment, you were number 24 trying to win a game for the title.
The kids of the previous generations had Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. The kids of the next generation have LeBron James and Steph Curry. The kids who grew up in the 90s had it good, because they had a multitude of players to look up to, and at the forefront was Kobe.
You followed that 18-year old high school senior from Lower Merion High School as he dreamt big and announced that he would enter the 1996 NBA draft. You stuck with him despite the growing pains and missed shot after shot early in his career. You celebrated every championship as if you were part of the team. You owned shirts, jerseys, and shoes of the Black Mamba. You were there when he tore his Achilles and was winding down his illustrious career. You were part of the millions that watched his last game as he played in the most Kobe way, scoring 60 points on 50 shots. And even if you were too shy to admit it, you were in tears as the final buzzer sounded and he delivered his famed MAMBA OUT speech.
Kobe was simply so much more than basketball. He taught millions of people how to work hard and strive to be the best. He spent countless hours to hone his craft and never rested on his laurels even when he was on top. There was always a new, higher mountain to climb.
At the end of his career, he did not have any regrets. He knew that he did all that he can for the game, and that he is leaving with a full heart. After basketball, he dedicated his life to his family, being with them as much as he could. Despite having daughters, he was okay with not having a son to continue his legacy. He knew that his daughters were more than capable of that. He even coached his daughter’s basketball team.
Was he perfect? No, far from it in fact. He had flaws in his life, both on and off the court. But at the end of the day, he atoned for these mistakes, or at the very least, tried to. Our shortcomings in life should never define us, it’s our desire to change and rise up that should.
On January 27, 2020, the world lost itself a legend. It’s extremely sad, losing someone so soon and so suddenly. But if you think about it, we’re never really losing him.
A part of Kobe lives in all of us who have been touched by his influence.
Thank you, Kobe for teaching me that nothing in life is given, no matter how talented you are. Whether it is shooting a last second buzzer beater, or saving a life in the operating room, your lessons transcend all aspects of life.