To me, Kobe Bryant is not just an NBA player or entrepreneur. He was my mentor and teacher. Don’t get me wrong, he probably never knew about his number one fan in Curaçao. I’m not even sure he knew Curaçao exists, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have survived high school without his inspiration.
His death came as a shocker. I don’t follow him as closely as I used to anymore, but that day I was looking at his Instagram feed. Looking at how big his children have gotten. I was overjoyed that he’s able to fulfill his role as a father now that he’s retired. Little did I know that a few hours later I would get the news that he was no longer with us.
I’m writing this to both uphold is legacy and share what I’ve learned from him. Not to mention that it’s helping me process the fact that he’s gone and I’ll never get a chance to meet him in person.
While in high school I had to take 5 languages. For each language class, we had to do an oral presentation. As someone obsessed with Kobe, I talked about him in every class. I basically took one presentation and translated it into all 5 languages. For two years straight, every presentation was on Kobe Bryant. Until I was forced to talk about something else.
Today in business I repurpose content all the time. If a social media post performed well, I use it a few months down the road. The same goes for emails, blog posts, podcasts, etc. It all started with my Kobe Bryant presentations.
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Do you boo!
Now he probably wouldn’t have said those exact words. It’s my interpretation of it, but he lived it out. Kobe loved the game of basketball, it was his life. He was obsessed with winning and was willing to do whatever it takes to win. Even if it meant never sharing the ball with his teammates. People were obviously not happy with his “selfishness”. He never let that affect him. Kobe had an unprecedented focus on his goals. He trusted himself and believed he could get it done his way.
It was also where I started learning to stand by my beliefs no matter what anyone else says. There were many people who have shared their dislike for Kobe with me. I defended him every time. Especially when I used to hang out with older baller guys who would tease me about my love for Kobe.
There was a time when the Lakers weren’t doing so well. The dream team thing didn’t work out, Phil Jackson left and Kobe was left with a young team that was looking up to him. It was during that time that he started to be more of a team player. He had to guide these young players, teach them what he knew otherwise they would be even more screwed. Kobe stepped up when he needed to.
The selfish side of Kobe was often seen in his early years as a player, it then started to shift when he had to lead. After his retirement from the NBA, he dedicated his time to coaching his daughter’s basketball team. They were headed to one of her games when the helicopter fatally crashed.
“A lot of leaders fail because they don’t have the bravery to touch that nerve or strike that chord.” – Kobe Bryant
Failure is not an option
In the world of Kobe Bryant, failure was never an option. He kept pushing until he won. Whenever he lost, he would deal with the emotions, wipe the tears, analyze what went on and fix it.
Kobe Bryant grew up in Italy where his dad played basketball. Since soccer is the big sport there, he didn’t have much opportunity to play basketball like he wanted to. When he moved to the US, he wasn’t caught up with the slang. Terms used on the basketball court like “why you sweatin’ me” were foreign to him. Not being able to fit in could’ve been an opportunity for him to quit playing ball, but quitting was not a part of who he was.
Strive to be the best
He always strived for excellence and being his best. Something that started way back as a young guy in high school when he used to train by himself every day before school. That same level of determination to win is what made him one of the best NBA players of all time.
“Losers visualize the pain of failure. Winners visualize the rewards of success.” – Kobe Bryant
It’s all in the details
Imagine for a moment being a player in the NBA. You’re surrounded by only the best. Sometimes, milliseconds makes the difference between being a winner or a loser. In order to be the best, you must be able to spot and fix the little things. That’s what it’s like being the best in the world.
Kobe Bryant was extremely meticulous and calculated in his moves. He used to watch games over and analyze every little thing. Not only when he was an NBA player, but this was also something he was doing even way before he went pro. It’s that attention to detail that makes him mentioned amongst the best. He never relied on his talent alone. There was always more he could do and he was willing to do it.
Anything could happen
My natural inclination is to always give up when it’s already looking like a failure. Kobe Bryant and the game of basketball taught me that anything could happen.
After the allegations of a sexual assault came out against him, all eyes were on him and how he was living his life. During that time he purchased a motorcycle. Many news outlets were talking about how many professional athletes had it in their contracts that they weren’t allowed to ride motorcycles because of the risks involved. Naturally, everyone feared he would get injured on it.
He did get injured, just not on the motorcycle. He cut his finger while moving boxes in the garage. 10 stitches. Who would’ve thought?
One of my favorite moments watching basketball was Derek Fisher’s 0.4-second shot. Before that happened, I saw Kobe Bryant save many games in the last minutes. This time was scary though, there was less than a second left on the clock. The play, of course, was to let Kobe Bryant shoot it, but the Spurs had him fully guarded. The pass was made to Derek Fisher instead of who caught the ball and shot it before the clock ran out. The credit for the play doesn’t go to Kobe, it’s just I’ve seen him make so many game-winning buzzer-beaters that I could believe in a miracle that night and it did happen.
The mamba mentality
Mindset plays a big role in such a competitive sports league. As a young 14-year-old, I noticed that it made all the difference. Watching a ton of Laker games, I got to study each person’s mindset based on their body language. I also watched Phil Jackson help manage their mindset with the timing of his timeouts and the way he encouraged them.
As for Kobe Bryant, he was very good at keeping his head in the game no matter what. Even after coming from his sexual assault court case. That mindset fascinated me. He later called it the mamba mentality after the killer black mamba snake. It was the mindset I used to make it through high school. No matter how hard it got at home, no matter how many times I cried myself to sleep, no matter how often I wanted to go out to get some attention from the guys, I made sure I was focused on my goal to finish high school.
The mamba mentality is also what I apply to business nowadays. No matter how tough it gets I keep going. At first, that meant ignoring my emotions as well, which I learned not to do anymore. I can’t say this is something Kobe has taught me, but I can say that he has become way more grounded throughout the years.
“If you want to be great at something, there is a choice that you have to make. What I mean by that is, there are inherent sacrifices that come along with that.” – Kobe Bryant
You never know who you’re impacting
As mentioned before, Kobe Bryant was like a mentor to me. He didn’t know I existed, but the way he lived his life impacted me deeply. Whoever you are reading this, know that what you put out there in the world might be inspiring someone without you knowing. Be responsible for how you live your life. I suggest living in a way that inspires others. Nowadays that we have social media, we all have a platform to make a difference in someone else’s life. Use it.
Rest in Peace Kobe Bryant. Even writing this post after your death has helped me so much. Forever thankful.