For the majority of his life, if you asked Kobe Bryant what he did he would have provided a very simple answer. “I play basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers and I am really really good at it”. It seems simple enough, Kobe Bryant played a game where he would put a ball through a hoop over and over again. At the end of the game, if his team had done it more than the other team, Kobe’s team would be declared the winner. That’s it, basketball is a pretty simple concept, so simple that children starting from the moment they can walk and hold a ball can participate. All the extra, the fame and the money are simply by-products of an exceedingly well-produced made for TV event. This is not to discredit the mastery that professional basketball players have achieved at their sport, we obviously know Kobe was a special talent. It’s just to say at face value, what he did seemed incredibly simple.
This was my perspective until January 26, 2020, when a helicopter crash took the lives of its 9 passengers including Kobe Bryant. For many people their first reaction was disbelief, “it can’t be true, they must have that wrong”, “say that again”, “stop fooling around”. This disbelief soon gave way to acceptance and in my case and many others a deep sadness.
Now, I grew up loving basketball, I had watched and been amazed by Kobe’s talent for many years. Through tracking his career I was well aware of his otherworldly ability and his all too human frailties. So for me and my friends, the sadness around this tragic passing made a lot of sense. At one-time basketball players were the closest things we knew to superheroes. They physically towered above all of us, they are endowed with extra-human strength and in some cases, they could seemingly fly. What’s more, among these giants Kobe stood taller, special and even more gifted. So for us basketball fans this loss was extremely real. However, the thing that surprised me the most is that people way beyond the basketball community were mourning this incredible loss together. Kobe truly had a global reach.
But how, how could someone who played a simple game have such a meaningful impact on people all around the world? I have spent some time reflecting on this and listening to other people and I have a few theories and below I have listed the one that makes the most sense to me.
The reason is simple, Kobe Bean Bryan made us all feel that no matter who we are, we too could be great! There is little secret about how hard Kobe worked at basketball. He had a work ethic that mystified many of his peers and a determination that could cause friction. Kobe loved what he did and he did it with such fury, determination and passion that he inspired us to believe that we too could be Kobe. In his words “You have to dance beautifully in the box that you are comfortable dancing in.” If you have a deep passion for something if you love something no matter how simple that thing is, give yourself fully to that passion. In doing this you won’t just meet your goals you will far exceed them.
Thank you for your example, goodbye Kobe.
I am passionate about finding ways for business to drive social good.
Fun fact: I am almost a good singer, almost a good dancer and almost a good guitar player.