Remembering Kobe

The last 24 hours after the news of Kobe’s passing have felt so surreal. Sitting at my desk answering emails felt so unimportant; I had a hard time focusing.

There have been so many articles written in the last day, and I think that is incredibly beautiful. I love to hear people’s thoughts poured out into writing; describing how something made them feel. I’ve seen minimal amounts of hatred on the Internet but some are quick to criticize others for being so upset over the passing of someone they don’t know. Its okay to be sad over someone you’ve never met before. We feel like we know our athletes. They are our heroes. They are our friends. They help us decompress after a long day of work to transport us into another world. Athletes save people and they inspire people. So though we may not have a close personal relationship with them, that does not lessen the blow you feel when, in the words of Kobe, someone has made you feel as alive as they’ve made you feel. There are bad things that happen every single day, but we can’t ignore the impact that one person has had on an entire culture. And its okay to be sad about that. Its okay to mourn that loss. You don’t have to explain what you are feeling.

I was not old enough to remember Michael Jordan playing in the NBA. For me, Michael is almost this mythical creature. I’ve watched countless clips and videos of him playing, but I didn’t live it. I did live through Kobe’s career though. Kobe feels more real to me.

One of the most impactful things I’ve heard about in the last 24 hours was the shift in Kobe’s life when he switched over to #24 and learned what it meant to be a teammate, to care about his family, to value other things in life than just basketball. Kobe was a strong competitor, but he had learned to channel his passion into other avenues during his life after basketball.

I am reminded today to focus on the small things in life that make me really happy and to appreciate those moments. If I get back to my apartment after work before the sunsets, I love to sit by the river with a glass of wine and watch the sun lower below the Pittsburgh skyline. For some reason these few minutes make me feel like I accomplished something greater than sitting at my desk and answering emails all day.

I love hearing about my parents’ lives. They’ve reached retirement age and are filling their time with such wonderful memories. I keep telling people that my parents are the best I’ve ever seen them and I mean that. Hearing about their outlook on life in their late 50s brings me a lot of joy.

I have this specific memory from the summer of 2019 when I was back in Cleveland for my friend Laura’s birthday. My college roommates and I went out in The Flats and we were sitting in these Adirondack chairs in the outdoor area of a bar drinking an ice cold beer on a perfect Cleveland weather day (sunny and 75 with no humidity). In the cold of winter I like to think about that moment and the happiness I was feeling.

Those moments are so small yet so impactful. I’m a big dreamer and there’s a lot I want to accomplish in this lifetime, but those small moments of warmth in my life are more impactful than the hours of work I put in each day. I hope to continue to appreciate those moments and not let my hopes and anxieties of the future affect my ability to enjoy the things that end up being the most meaningful. I haven’t been able to put into words what I’ve really learned from Kobe because the one side of him was the competitor and the hard worker. The other side of him was the family man who enjoyed simple pleasures. I think I realized that his legacy was exactly that. You don’t have to pick one thing or the other. You can be a hard worker and live your life with an unmatched drive and focus to achieve your goals while also valuing family and the many meaningful memories you can take from the personal relationships in your life. Kobe was magically able to do both. For me, the Mamba Mentality is giving your 100% to whatever it is that matters to you and being 100% present in that moment. Athletes who played with Kobe talked about his relentless drive and competitive nature on the court, but later in his career he worked just as relentlessly to form a bond and friendship with those players off the court. Kobe might not have operated like this earlier on in his career, but as time passed, I think he knew the importance of both. 18-year-old Kobe thought basketball was the only thing that mattered. 41 year old Kobe knew that his purpose on this Earth was much greater than playing the game he loved. I think Mamba Mentality functions differently in each of our lives, and I hope Mamba Mentality can serve a purpose in your life. We aren’t all going to be Kobe Bryant spending 18 hours in the gym everyday. But I will tell you I was really tired when my alarm went off this morning, and the first thing I thought of was “Mamba Mentality,” which pushed me to get my ass out of bed and go run on the treadmill for 30 minutes. Mamba Mentality is whatever mindset YOU need to accomplish what you want to. To me, that is Kobe’s legacy.

A world without Kobe Bryant was not a world I thought I was going to live in for a very long time, yet here we are. There are guys out there that you feel like are untouchable. Some part of me kept thinking that Kobe was going to step out of the rubble of this helicopter, carrying his daughter in his arms saying that he used his hands to break the landing. It sounds crazy, but it felt like he could do anything and nothing would hurt him. But here we are sitting around discussing how we will never get to see what his life was going to become and reflecting on our own mortality. I believe that if you asked Kobe right before he died, if he would’ve done anything differently with his life, he would’ve said no. He used all 1440 minutes in a day to accomplish what he wanted. I think the greatest lesson we can take from him is to live like that— to do something meaningful with your time on this earth and don’t stop till you get where you want to be.

Mamba out.

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