I first became a fan of the NBA during Michael Jordan’s career. I was mesmerized by his talent, his confidence. When he retired, I drifted away from professional basketball, going back to the college game. When Kobe Bryant came on the scene, Michael was retired and though he unretired for two seasons with Washington, he was but a journeyman compared to his career stats. Kobe made it clear he believed he was the next MJ. He brandished an arrogance and confidence that was required to get the eyes of the fans on him and his Lakers. It didn’t work for me. I remained on the NBA sidelines.
When Kobe became news again was during the controversy of a sexual contact he had with a woman. In a time prior to the Me-Too movement, he set the standard for how to take responsibility for his actions. He didn’t blame the accuser; didn’t say she knew what she was getting into. No…he took responsibility, like a man. He apologized to the victim. He took the time to empathize, to see the event through her eyes, explained how he misunderstood the moment. Then apologized to his wife, to his family and to his fans and his team. Yes…he stood up like a man and begged forgiveness for his actions. There was nothing he could do on the basketball court that could ever compare to the actions he took after the accusations came to light.
Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons with the Lakers, playing on five championship teams, retiring in 2016. He played in 18 all-star games. He fell just short of MJ’s numbers but where he truly made his mark was off the court, when his career was over. It is estimated that his net worth was over 600 million dollars, but the true mark he left behind was the influence over the world in general.
He promoted service, giving back to the world, leading others to a better way to live. There was a story about how he was driving through the streets of LA and came across a traffic accident. He didn’t drive away, didn’t keep going and call 911. He pulled his Range Rover to the curb and got out and offered aide to the victim. He didn’t view his fame or his wealth as placing him above others. He wanted to make a difference.
And make a difference he did. He and his wife, Vanessa formed a foundation to reach out to kids in need, aiding in developing physical and social skills. He gave away millions of dollars to charities and worked to help the homeless. He dedicated his time to helping others in all walks of life. He spoke out often about social injustice. He was dedicated to his wife and his children and set an example for the fortunate athletes of the world to give back their blessings to those in need. At the time of his passing, he was writing book aimed at inspiring underprivileged children. As with others, he urged them, never give up.
Kobe Bryant was lost to the world on a helicopter that crashed into a hillside on a foggy Southern California morning. He was on his way to coach a youth basketball team whose roster included his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who also died in the crash. The mission I am on, the books I have written and the message they carry are about taking our eyes off of ourselves and focusing them instead on the world around you. I am currently but a small player in that arena. But that arena doesn’t require you to be 6’5” or be able to stuff a basketball or be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Kobe’s message in that arena was we all can make a difference. We can. You may not be able to reach out to millions of people, but if you can touch just one, if you can improve the life of one single person for one single day, then you have contributed just as much as Kobe did. In that arena, you too can be an MVP (Most Valuable Person). So, step up…make a difference. Carry on the torch that Kobe Bryant held high, like others before him. Let that torch show the way towards making this world a better place.