As an observer of his life and career, if I were asked to play word association for Kobe Bryant, the two descriptive terms I would choose would be passionate and resolute. Those are traits that have come to strongly resonate with me, characteristic as they are of the kind of person that I strive to be every day. He inspired me, a point that I have been ruminating on a lot these past few weeks in the wake of his sudden passing. So, while we mourn the tragedy, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on the traits I most associated with him, because they were what in my mind made him great, and what made Kobe great serves as inspiration to maximize our time on this Earth.
I followed his entire career. He was one of those players that I will be talking with fellow basketball enthusiasts about for the rest of my life. When I think about Kobe, his resolute quest for greatness is the first thing that comes to mind, not just in the game of basketball for which he is best known, but in his life in general. His career in the NBA was Top 10 all-time great, of course; it was his transition to his post-basketball life, though, that I admired most. Few players in the history of the game were as passionate about basketball as Kobe, but when his body told him it was time to retire, he listened and then he channeled his passion elsewhere.
To flow gracefully from one phase of life to another, finding new ways to positively contribute to the world, was one of Kobe’s skills that all of us could learn. Among other endeavors, he converted the poem (referenced below) that announced his retirement into a documentary short that won an Academy Award, further cultivated his filmmaking interest by opening a production company focused on increasing diversity, developed an academy to help people unlock their full potential, and became a much more engaged father to his kids.
Kobe had his personal controversies, but he always tried to become a better person because of them, and he channeled that energy right back into his passions once re-centered in his life. Such is why perhaps no basketball player this century is as revered by his peers, who he openly embraced once he could turn his level of competitiveness toward them down a notch (or eight). Getting knocked off course, only to respond resolutely and climb to the next peak in life…that’s the key to success. To paraphrase Kobe, everything negative in life presents opportunities for us to rise.
I had always quietly hoped that healthcare reform might have become of interest to him. He was arguably the hardest working basketball player of any first-ballot Hall of Famer, relentlessly trying to maximize his physical potential, in the waning years of his prime through making smarter and more innovative health choices. His extraordinarily studious nature and distinguished reputation would have been incredible assets to re-focusing healthcare on health and moving it beyond the dark ages of diagnosing and treating symptoms. He would have picked apart every flaw in the system and made everyone more aware of them, rather sternly based on his leadership style on the court. Fellow warriors in the fight to change the way that people think about healthcare, imagine Kobe Bryant being on our “team.”
To win the battle for American healthcare, we will have to overcome a modern dynasty; the allopathic viewpoint renders the holistic movement a comparative expansion franchise much in need of infrastructure and influential support. Essential to our cause will be the eventual equivalent of Kobe lobbing the alley-oop pass that Shaq dunked to push the Lakers toward the 2000 NBA Championship, overcoming the differences in our individual approaches to accomplish a greater collective goal. Until then, we will have to each follow Kobe’s approach that won Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, struggling as we might at times but willing ourselves ever closer to a much-needed healthcare revolution.
The phrase that Kobe invented to describe his famous work ethic was “The Mamba Mentality,” defined simply as the daily process of striving to be better. For most of his 42 years, Kobe was consciously passionate about what he was doing in his life, amplifying his successes and contextualizing his failures, while continually earning people’s respect. His was a life worth celebrating and emulating.
As the clock winds down to the waning seconds of this reflection, I’ll paraphrase from Kobe’s Oscar-winning “Dear Basketball.” No matter what phase in life we are in, whether seeing the end of the tunnel or still imagining what it would be like to walk out of one, no matter how many “seasons” we have left to give, we should strive to savor every moment, the good and the bad, all that we have, resolute in our passion to optimize our health, our lives, and the world around us. Thanks, Kobe.
Thinking good things for you, as always,