I waited to pen this post because much of the world was writing on Kobe immediately after his death. But I do believe there are some lessons that educators can impart on their students from Kobe’s life.
I arrived at Wawa shortly after 2 in the afternoon to get gas on Sunday January 26, 2020. One of my best friends texted me, asking if the news was true. He sent a link saying that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. I thought it was fake. I hadn’t heard anything like that all day.
When my gas attendant finally arrived at my car and greeted me with, “did you hear what happened?” I knew it was true.
Like any young Black child of the 1990’s, I was a fan of Michael Jordan.
Jordan began winning championships when I began watching basketball and like he was for many, Jordan was my favorite player. Other players entered the NBA under the guise of being the next Jordan. I wasn’t a fan of any of them… that is until Kobe Bean Bryant entered the NBA.
I am not sure what it was about him, but I became a fast fan. I remember draft night in 1996. Aside from the Sixers drafting Allen Iverson, the best moment of the night came when the Los Angeles Lakers traded for him. A few weeks later, they signed Shaquille O’Neal. The rest was history. 8 years and a three-peat later, I was indeed a Lakers fan. I abdicated my fandom during the 2001 NBA Finals of course.
I was a fan when Kobe ran Shaq out of LA. I was a fan when the Lakers struggled to make the playoffs. I was a fan when the Lakers won championships again and I was a fan when the team turned into a place of exile for Kobe – where players years after their prime arrived to attempt one more run and finally a team in purgatory; journeying to a rebuild once Kobe arrived at retirement.
I was saddened at the news of Kobe’s passing. At first, I didn’t believe it. However, the news spread like wildfire. This was a day the world stopped for a day. I only experienced this twice before; 9/11 and the day Michael Jackson died. Grown men like myself mourned his passing. Hitting even harder was that his daughter and 7 others died on their way to a youth basketball game.
As the tributes poured in people began to celebrate his life, and others discussed out his weaknesses both professionally and personally. Some in fact were triggered with the news of Kobe’s passing with memories of their own surviving rape. As educators, we should know that some of our students may have questions surrounding what happened; questions we can’t answer like why did Kobe have to die or why didn’t he get to grow old or how can we celebrate someone who faced a rape case where he settled out of court?
Of course, we don’t have the answers to these questions. However, we do have his life for pour consumption to offer our students some wisdom on how to live their own lives. What wisdom can we gain from Kobe Bryant’s life that we can impart on our students? I am glad you asked. Here is what we can tell our students according to the life that Kobe Bryant lived:
- Believe in yourself and your potential for greatness (even when others don’t). Kobe had an uncanny ability to trust in himself and what he could do. There is a story of Kobe Bryant telling Michael Jordan that had they both played in the NBA during the prime of their careers, Kobe would have beat him. That’s a lot of confidence. Our students must be similarly confident. No one was going to deter Kobe from his goals because he believed in himself that much. We must work to build the same sense of will within our students, so that they too can believe in themselves – what also jumpstarts that is a belief in the students. We MUST believe in them too.
- Be great at your craft (even at the risk of failure). In addition to trusting himself, Kobe worked hard at being great. He did however fail at times. He took chances when no one else was willing to; namely that playoff game in 1998 against the Utah Jazz. However, his failure that game fueled his desire to be great. 5 championships later, Kobe Bryant is considered one of the greatest basketball players to ever live. Encourage students to strive for greatness in whatever it is they seek to do professionally and personally.
- Greatness is not without sacrifice (even of those you love). Kobe gave his time, talent and energy to getting better at the game of basketball – at the expense of his family at times. He understood that at times, being great required sacrifice: eating healthy, studying game tape, exercising, and spending less time with family, friends and having fun for more time perfecting his craft. We must teach students that the road to greatness requires sacrifice and they must weigh the cost. Whether we wish to be great professionally or personally, something may be sacrificed. Our job isn’t to tell them what to give up but to help them make informed decisions on how to navigate our lives whereby we achieve our goals without losing sight of our passions, purpose and what matters most.
- The history of your decisions is yours to own (it shapes who you are and who you are not). None of us are perfect and neither was Kobe Bryant. He was flawed. He was tough to work with, he had conflict in the relationship with his parents, he was unfaithful to his wife and faced an accusation of rape where he admitted that honored his accuser’s truth that she says that she did not consent. Nevertheless, Kobe grew from these events (in my opinion). His growth from those things, in addition to those things themselves, made him the husband, mentor, father and friend that he was to many. Our individual histories are complicated. However, how we grow and get better as people is what our legacies ultimately become. We must always share with students that it’s not how you start but how you finish. We must encourage them to always finish strong with integrity.
- Prioritize what matters most and do what is priority (tomorrow isn’t promised). One of the must heartbreaking but endearing aspect of the news of Kobe’s passing is that he died being a dad. He admitted to missing time at home and spent the remaining days investing in his family. He coached his daughter in addition to all of his other projects. While he may have left this earth, there is no doubt that he did so doing what he wanted to do: being a family man. We all have busy schedules but we mustn’t ever lose sight of what’s important. We must instruct our students to always prioritize our lives and do what’s most important; whether it be family, faith or fellowship – we must all put first things first.
Kobe Bryant was a terrific basketball player and he was on his way to being just as terrific off the court as he was on it. As some mourn and others remember and discuss Kobe, we should do our best to strive to be our best selves, cherish and develop our relationships and do the best we can with the time that we’re given. These are truths that are applicable to us all.
Let’s continue to press towards the mark!