As the world mourns the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and the other passengers on his helicopter, many have come to gain a greater appreciation for Kobe and his legacy. Sure, like the rest of us he had his struggles. But the words ‘overcomer’ and ‘champion’ symbolize how I choose to remember Kobe.
Drafted in 1996, I almost feel as if Kobe and I grew up together. I mean, we both graduated High School in 1996, and being a true Laker fan… he was the “next”. As an 80’s baby I witnessed Magic Johnson and his greatness, the smooth game of James Worthy, and the electrifying highflyer Byron Scott. I saw Michael Cooper lock down opposing players on defense, Kareem gracefully pass to torch to Magic, and even our own international Superstar in Vlade Divac. But the 1996 draft was different, it was special. Jerry West found this kid who seemed to defy odds. Legend has it that although he would have played at Duke, Kobe was eager to get to the NBA to have a shot at playing against his idol Michael Jordan before he retired. After a string of impressive pre-draft workouts, Jerry West pulled the trigger on a deal with the then Charlotte Hornets. Our big man Vlade Divac would be sent to Charlotte for this skinny cocky kid named Kobe Bean Bryant.
Life wasn’t easy for Kobe. It can be argued that he didn’t have the natural athleticism that other all-time greats displayed early on. Michael Jordan was simply the best player on the court the moment he arrived in the NBA. The same could be said for Dr.J., Magic, Bird, and even Lebron. But Kobe had to work and work he did. What he lacked in athleticism, he compensated for with sheer will and determination. As a rookie, he rode the bench behind all-star Edie Jones. Early in his career he saw pivotal playoff moments where he didn’t necessarily rise to the occasion (most notably the Utah airballs). That same summer Dr. West signed a big check to get the game’s most dominant big man, Shaquille O’Neal to the Lakers. His vison? To create a 1-2 punch named Shaq and Kobe.
A few years go by and finally in the year of 2000, Shaq and Kobe bring the Lakers a championship, and this is where the legend began. Kobe was known for intense practices, showing up hours before everyone else. Opponents feared him even when he didn’t have the ball. And wouldn’t you know it, his greatest strength would turn into his most glaring weakness. The reign at the top lasted for 3 years only to be followed by years of obscurity. In spite of the struggles of the organization, Kobe went out 82 games a year and wreaked havoc on opposing defenses, and as fate would have it, he would be champion two more times before his retirement.
Somewhere along the line, he developed Mamba Mentality (known as the venomous Black Mamba snake on the court) which is defined as, “constant quest to find answers. It's that infinite curiosity to want to be better, to figure things out.” That definition not only encapsulates his career, but it gives us all insight on how to achieve at the highest level, regardless of your career choice. His journey to the top should not only be celebrated but should serve as a catalyst to us all. So, here is you challenge, after you discover your passion:
· STUDY- Become well versed in the area(s) in which you desire to succeed.
· PLAN- Your next step. Set short- and long-term goals.
· WRITE- The vison (Habakkuk 2 in scripture), make a vision board!
· PURSUE- With reckless abandon, go get it! Remember, it wasn’t Kobe’s skill set, but his mentality that propelled him to greatness…you CAN do it!