FROM THE EDITOR: Kobe was more than basketball
By Ben Rodgers
Disclaimer: I am an avid NBA fan, depending who you ask, bordering the term “junkie.” I’m also deeply saddened by news that shocked the sports world Sunday, Jan. 26. This column may not apply directly to you and is certainly not local, but there are lessons here we can all benefit from.
“It can’t be true,” and “It must be a hack,” were the two things which raced through my mind when the death of Kobe Bryant was first reported Sunday.
Kobe was a transcendent figure on and off the court. After all, how many people of influence can go by just one name?
A five-time NBA champion, two-time gold medal winner, 18-time all star, the list goes on and on, and it’s not important.
But what really struck me was how it happened.
Kobe was traveling by helicopter with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, to her basketball practice at his Mamba Sports Academy, where he served as coach.
Kobe always took helicopters as a player. It saved his body the wear of an hour-plus drive to the Staples Center. It’s part of the reason he lasted two decades at the highest level of competition.
Kobe was bringing his Mamba Mentality to parenting and it ended like this.
Can you imagine what was racing through his head and his worst fears were being realized, as that helicopter was going down and he knew not only his life would be over, but also his daughter’s?
How terrible would it be to die like that with your daughter, the person you care more about than anything in the world by your side?
To make things worse, a father, mother, daughter, assistant coach, another mother and daughter and pilot also died in the crash.
I’m not a parent, but I know how much mine love me. I can’t imagine the grief and pain Kobe and the other parents felt at that moment.
Hug the ones you love, and never take a moment for granted. Tomorrow is not a given.
But people die everyday – fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. Why should Kobe deserve the outpouring of emotion that followed the crash?
Why are people caring more about his death than the other father who died in the same crash?
I believe it’s because of what Kobe meant for millions around the world.
Kobe drew arguably too much praise for something as simple as putting a ball into a hoop. He also drew equal amounts of scorn for being so talented.
But, if you know anything about the game, you understand Kobe worked harder than anyone in basketball, quite possibly all of sports.
His Mamba Mentality was simple, if you work harder than everyone, you can be better than anyone. You need to gain a physical advantage and a mental one. Everything is tied together. Self-perception is vital.
Of course, he had natural talents, but to be considered a top-10, all-time player takes more than God-given gifts.
There has to be a burning desire to be better and a drive to never stop improving and changing.
If there’s a legacy for Kobe, in my mind, basketball has very little to do with it.
Kobe should be remembered for how hard work and dedication to your craft can yield remarkable results.
Kobe was entering the second stage of his life at 41. He was taking Gianna to more NBA games. He was sitting courtside, speaking Slovenian to the league’s next big star. He was working out with current players all off-season. He was working full-time with business ventures.
Kobe wanted to blaze his own path, so he refused to take the cushy TV analyst role, and instead made his own content. He even won an Academy Award for it.
Had Kobe not died, his example, and dedication not only to parenting, but to his projects and ventures after basketball would have continued to inspire millions.
I wasn’t alive for Munich or Roberto Clemente in 1972, so I can’t compare.
But Kobe came to relevance along with social media. He was connected to fans in a way like never before.
For me, and for right now, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, will go down as the saddest day in NBA history, and it has little to do with basketball.