Wed, Jul

8 Reflections on the Death of Kobe Bryant


VIEW FROM HERE-I am a Celtics fan. But damn he was good. He could create space better than any player of his era.

A silky-smooth turn away jump shot that was impossible to guard. Fierce defense that forced even the best scorers to completely alter their approach. An unrelenting desire to win every play. Kobe wanted to be better than Jordan, and in the process he redesigned what a shooting guard could do. He rebounded with tenacity. Passed like a point guard. He wanted the ball in his hands when the game was on the line. At his peak he was absolutely dominant. 

2) Deaths like these make all of us feel weaker. He had everything. Unlimited money. Fame. A beautiful family. Success in business. The envy of his peers. An Oscar. Global super stardom. His finger on the pulse of an entire culture. All of that wiped out in a horrific crash. Thoughts of paralysis. Confusion. Helplessness. How could someone with so much vitality and power be taken away so quickly and so easily? It just doesn’t make sense. The JFK experience for Millennials.     

3) I’m slightly annoyed when I hear people talk about Bryant as being more than a basketball player. One commentator stressed that he “even spoke multiple languages.” Would that person say such a thing about a famous, accomplished white person? Why should we be so impressed that he had ambitions outside sports? Don’t all creative people have more than one outlet for their passions? Is there a racial component to these tributes? I am probably being too sensitive. After all, Kobe always seemed to transcend stereotypes.   

4) Speaking as a father of a two-year-old daughter, I cannot fathom dying that way. In my daughter's arms. To be with her in those final, terrifying moments. To be the one who brought her into the world and then out of it. To go into the earth with her, to hold her fear, praying with her. One last act of courage. One final moment of heroism. Our father who art in heaven...  

5) What is Mamba Mentality? It's a feeling that cannot be described in words. The Mamba Mentality is unadulterated confidence. The shot is going in. You know it because you have put the work in. You made that shot a million times. You see it going in because it must. Mama Mentality is refusing to quit even when the last whistle blows. It is working as hard in the gym when no one is watching as on the court in front of a million viewers. Mama Mentality is saying I got this.          

6) Kobe was clearly destined for politics. Think about it. Exposure to foreign cultures. Check. Elegance and style. Check. Good on television. Check. Business acumen. Check. Fresh ideas. Check. Commitment to changing how communities of color see themselves. Check. At the very least, he would have made a superb NBA commissioner. That is over now. Who will dream the dream now that the dreamer is dead?  Who will carry the torch?   

7) He was the GOAT. 5x NBA champion. 2x Finals MVP. 18x All Star. 2x Olympic Gold Medalist. 33, 643 points. 8, 641 minutes played. The accolades are endless. Beyond the numbers, he was an ambassador. He changed the way the league perceived its role on the international stage. He made basketball into something more than a game. Kobe transformed basketball into an ethos.    

8) He was not a perfect, not by any means. Who is? But he was perfect in his response to imperfection. Accused of sexual assault by a young woman in Denver, he rededicated his life to becoming a champion of women athletes all over the world. After a terrible mistake nearly cost him his wife, family, career and reputation, he refocused his priorities and set about becoming the best father he could be. In the end, that was his true legacy. The Mamba Mentality. Put the work in. Do whatever it takes to be great. When you fall, do not just get back up. Get up and jump higher than you did before. In the end, Kobe was doing what he believed in and doing it as hard as he could. Mamba out.


(George Cassidy Payne is a social worker and adjunct instructor of philosophy. He has degrees in history from St. John Fisher College, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and Emory University.)



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