“KOBE. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS.”
This is how I found out Kobe Bryant had died. It was a text from a friend in California who, like the rest of us, found out via TMZ that Kobe’s private airplane crashed into a mountainside with his daughter and a group of her teammates and their parents on board as they were on the way to practice. Like others I was just hoping it was a mistake, or that he’d rise from the ashes miraculously.
This was a week ago. Kobe Bryant — a 41 year old man working on his second act, after 20 wildly successful years in the NBA — died a week ago. I say this again because I’m still in shock and I’m still dealing with it. And I’ve been sitting with my thoughts on this since the minute I found out.
The Truth Is ...
I am not a basketball fan by any means, but somehow his championship series games are the only ones I can remember watching … ever! So I don’t feel a loss as a fan. Though engaged, I’m not a wife, so I don’t feel the loss as a spouse or widow. But as mom, I couldn’t imagine the pain, heartbrokenness and hopelessness that Vanessa is dealing with, knowing that she’s lost her partner and child, but still has to stay strong for her remaining children, including a newborn. And maybe his sudden death triggered memories of my own step-father’s sudden illness and death. And just when I think that I’m pathetically desensitized to death after all the loss I’ve experienced the past couple of years, Kobe’s death has somehow shaken me. It’s struck me. Deeply. To the point that I have yet to watch a full news story or read a single article about it. Somewhere there’s a beautiful video put together featuring clips from the Instagram account of Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife. To this day, I’ve yet to click play.
While I haven’t been able to muster the courage to watch news segments, online videos or read articles, I have been on a small internal journey of introspection, reflection and realization about what I could learn from the sudden death of a figure who accomplished so very much but still had so much to contribute. I’ve come away with three towering conclusions.
1. Our greatest act thus far doesn't have to be our last.
Kobe was still a young man. He only recently retired. So he had so much more to give. And I’m sure so much more he wanted to do. He wanted to be a writer … a storyteller. After a successful 20 year run in the NBA with 5 national championships among his many awards, he used a poem he wrote about his retirement to make a short animated film that earned him his first Oscar. The #girldad and self-proclaimed Slytherin was also coaching his daughter’s basketball team and had recently began to publicly advocate for higher pay for WNBA players. The story of his post NBA life was well on its way.
Thinking of these things, I ask myself: Am I allowing the possibility of another career? Am I putting things in place while I have the security of a regular job?
2. But a second act isn't promised to anyone, so take risks and do all the things.
Kobe wanted to be one of the greatest players of all time. Fresh out of high school and thrown into the spotlight of the NBA, he did it. He wanted to be storyteller. And so he did it. Even in the face of doubt and negative reaction from others. He took the risks, made the sacrifices, and dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the goals he set for himself. It’s why he was so successful. It’s a recurring theme in the few interviews with his close friends I’ve stumbled upon.
So I ask myself: Am I setting goals and attempting to accomplish them? Am I going as hard as I can? Am I making the necessary sacrifices? Does my belief in myself outweigh others doubt of me?
3. Your legacy lives forever.
Despite early career troubles, Kobe went on to be a highly celebrated player when he retired. He established a legacy of hard work, determination, redemption and belief in one’s self. Whether that was on the court, in the boardroom, or in his home. His family and fans will remember and celebrate him in the way that is deserving of a man who came out in the in the end like a man, dad, husband, friend, brother, hero and champion we can honor eternally and confidently.
So for me I ask questions like: If I died tomorrow, what would be legacy be? What would my family, friends and colleagues say about me when I’m no longer here? Have I made an impact on anyone?
We all have different ways to deal with a loss like this. For me, right now, it’s reflection. For me, reckoning with sudden death means using reflection to ensure that the person’s death wasn’t in vain.
Has Kobe’s death made you reflect on anything? What ways do you find effective for dealing with loss?