Whether you liked him or not – whether you like basketball or not – it’s worth remembering Kobe Bryant. He was not the perfect player, teammate, or person, but none of us are. But he found greatness. And for that reason alone, his life is worth looking at. By remembering Kobe, we can learn two things: (1) greatness requires incredible effort and discipline, and (2) being a parent is our greatest calling and duty.
I’m not gonna lie, last week was rough. Wednesday night I got a call that my 93-year-old grandmother had died. She had been my greatest advocate, the one who I knew was in my corner my entire life. In her eyes, whatever I did was the best, simply because I did it. You don’t need everyone in your life to be like that, but it’s nice to have someone. She was that person for me.
We buried her on Sunday. Just before I got up to speak at her funeral, I learned that Kobe Bryant had just died in a helicopter crash. As it turns out, he was taking his 13-year-old daughter, her teammate, and the teammate’s parent to their basketball game. Nine people died in the crash.
As a player, I was never a Kobe fan. I thought he shot too much. I thought he ran Shaq out of LA because he wanted to be the focal point of the offense. And there was the rape allegation. It turned out to be false, but still.
He Worked Harder than Anyone
But he grew on me. And he grew on me because of two things: (1) his work ethic and (2) his relationships with his family. Here’s a story I came across a few years ago told by a strength/conditioning coach who worked with USA basketball. I kept it because it gave you a sense of what made Kobe great. Here’s the story in his words:
I was invited to Las Vegas to help Team USA with their conditioning before they headed off to London. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade in the past, but this would be my first interaction with Kobe.
The night before the first scrimmage, I had just watched “Casablanca” for the first time and it was about 3:30 AM. A few minutes later, I was in bed, slowly fading away, when I heard my cell ring. It was Kobe. I nervously picked up.
“Hey, uhh, Rob, I hope I’m not disturbing anything right?”
“Uhh, no. What’s up Kob?”
“Just wondering if you could help me out with some conditioning work, that’s all.”
I checked my clock. 4:15 AM.
“Yeah sure, I’ll see you in the facility in a bit.”
It took me about twenty minutes to get my gear and get out of the hotel. When I arrived and opened the room to the main practice floor, I saw Kobe. Alone. He was drenched in sweat as if he had just taken a swim. It wasn’t even 5:00 AM.
We did some conditioning work for the next hour and fifteen minutes. Then, we entered the weight room, where he would do a multitude of strength training exercises for the next 45 minutes. After that, we parted ways. He went back to the practice floor to shoot. I went back to the hotel and crashed. Wow.
I was expected to be at the floor again at about 11:00 AM.
I woke up feeling sleepy, drowsy, and pretty much every side effect of sleep deprivation. (Thanks, Kobe.) I had a bagel and headed to the practice facility.
This next part I remember very vividly. All of the Team USA players were there. LeBron was talking to Carmelo and Coach Krzyzewski was trying to explain something to Kevin Durant. On the right side of the practice facility Kobe was by himself shooting jumpers.
I went over to him, patted him on the back and said, “Good work this morning.”
“Like, the conditioning. Good work.”
“Oh. Yeah, thanks Rob. I really appreciate it.”
“So when did you finish?”
“Getting your shots up. What time did you leave the facility?”
“Oh, just now. I wanted 800 makes. So yeah, just now.”
For those of you keeping track at home, Kobe Bryant started his conditioning work around 4:30 am, continued to run and sprint until 6:00 am, lifted weights from 6:00 am to 7:00 am, and finally proceeded to make 800 jump shots between 7:00 am and 11:00 am.
Oh yeah, and then Team USA had practice.
That, gentlemen, is a man pursuing a dream. A man committed to developing his skills. A man committed to his craft. I’m not a celebrity fanboy. I bristle at people who are celebrated merely for “being famous”.
And there’s plenty of truth to the idea that professional athletes are coddled and spoiled. They make a ton of money to play a game. But we have no choice but to respect Kobe Bryant. He pushed his body and his mind to the limit in pursuit of excellence. That is the man’s life.
He Died Being a Dad
The redeeming part about his death is this: Kobe died being a dad. He had a daughter who loved basketball. And he was right there with her, taking her and a teammate to the game. Just like a dad does. Just like I do all the time. Just like many of you do. He didn’t die jet-setting around the world getting endorsement money (which would have been fine). He wasn’t off on a flamboyant and extravagant vacation (which would have been fine as well). He was taking his daughter to her basketball game.
Life can be tragic. It can turn in an instant. Death can knock at any moment, either for us or those we love. When death came for Kobe Bryant, it found him doing his duty. May the same be said of us. This is the man’s life. Godspeed.
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