I started playing basketball when I was in primary school, Class 7 to be precise. That was after a friend of mine, John Mark, came to our home one evening with a clip of the Los Angeles Lakers playing against the Miami Heat.
Two people, in that game inspired me to want to play the game; Heat’s Dwyane Wade and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. Superb players with great speed and agility.
I loved those guys. And so I started playing, all the way until secondary school where our team reached the provincial final and missed a spot in the nationals by a whisker.
One of those guys passed on recently. Kobe Bryant. Barely out of retirement and only just starting to build a legacy outside of basketball.
He died in a chopper crash with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who was closely following in his footsteps. I’m sure everybody knows the story by now. So I will go straight to the lessons we can pick from the man’s life.
First, taking responsibility for one’s actions. Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003. He called a press conference and took full responsibility for his actions.
He said he thought the sex was consensual, but apologised for any harm he might have caused the victim if she thought it wasn’t. He manned up. They eventually settled the case out of court.
Secondly, Showing up. We, as young people, barely ever show up for our friends or family. Except when alcohol is involved.
Kobe bought a whole chopper just so he couldn’t sit in traffic after practice while going to pick his kids up from school. The NBA schedule is hectic. But he made the time for the thing that mattered most: Family. We should highly emulate that.
Thirdly, being nice to everyone. In the preceding days since Kobe’s passing, I have read a tonne of stories about how he made everybody feel like they mattered.
How he visited the sick in their hospital beds abruptly; how he taught a friend’s twins basketball on their birthday because it was their one wish; how he took the money he had made and invested it in a sports academy for kids. A lot of stories. Kobe was nice to everyone around him, regardless of their social standing. That is a trait worth envying.
Finally, Following our hearts. While still in high school, Kobe already knew what he wanted to do: which was playing basketball. He never went to college. He went straight from high school to the major league, where he dominated and made sure everybody knew who he was.
I feel like, as young people, we waste so much time chasing useless things instead of focusing our energy on the one thing our hearts actually want; regardless of what anybody says. Let us embrace Kobe’s brevity.
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