Rest In Peace, Black Mamba

January 28, 2020

I’m not supposed to be writing this piece right now.

Just a little over a year ago, I was emotional as I wondered why someone like Tyler Trent had to be taken from the world so soon. Why someone who was so clearly cut from a different cloth than most humans, and who used that to inspire so many others, was stricken by such tragic circumstances.

But here we are again, a little over 24 hours since Kobe Bryant was confirmed to be on the S-76B Sikorsky that went down in the hills of Calabasas, and I’m in a similar emotional state. Being reminded by those who knew him well of all the great things he did off the basketball court, and wondering how the world can be so cruel and fragile, while at the same time providing a temporary home for the greats like Bryant.

Fittingly enough, I was on the basketball court when I heard of the news. I thought what I was hearing was fake, so I asked the scorekeeper three times what he said just to be able to process the information.

That is not a lie. And neither is the fact that when I got home, I spent the better part of the next eight hours watching and reading the reports and reactions from across the world. It was one part astounding, one part therapeutic.

At least the world was suffering with me.

Kobe Bryant the basketball player was great. We all know that, witnessed it and could revisit it whenever we wanted to thanks to YouTube and other social media. But the fact that he was so, so much more is what makes the passing of those nine lives on Sunday morning such a tragedy.

Bryant’s second act, the post-basketball activities which the world was just beginning to see the fruits it bore, was projecting to be just as successful as the first. An Academy Award for the animated short Dear Basketball was the beginning of a budding art career that was continuing with a book series aimed at young adults.

Today, co-author Paulo Coelho announced he deleted the draft of a children’s book he was helping create with Bryant.

But unlike Coelho’s draft, the legend of Kobe Bryant won’t be killed as easily as the deletion of text.

Bryant transcended basketball in a way that few other athletes ever, and certainly in his own generation, were able to do. Part of that is thanks to his unique blend of cultural adaptation, which allowed him to become a household name across the globe while coming across as genuine wherever he went. Part of it was undoubtedly due to his tireless quest for greatness as well.

See, the Mamba Mentality isn’t something that only elite individuals can apply to their lives. Its application to the elite was of course obvious, as the outpouring of grief and condolences from elite athletes, celebrities and politicians poured in throughout Sunday.

But it can also take the average human being and elevate them as well. The devotion to perfecting his craft on the basketball court, as an artist and perhaps most importantly, as a father, isn’t something that came as a result of superior genetics.

No – Bryant’s tireless work ethic is a reminder of what can be achieved through a human element that we all possess.

Bryant would have been a terrific basketball player without his unique approach to the craft, but his desire to literally outwork every last one of his contemporaries was truly special. It should come as no surprise, then, that he was finding similar success off the court as well.

Keep in mind, as a young man Bryant was brash and needed to learn. He made mistakes, as we all do. But by the end, there was an intelligence and maturity that only comes with time and experience. This, combined with that legendary work ethic, is what made Bryant an all-timer.

If it was only about basketball, maybe this wouldn’t be so tough to swallow. Maybe we’d be able to build a statue, make him a first ballot Hall of Famer and immortalize him in the ways that we know how.

Maybe I wouldn’t even care, if it was only about basketball.

But unfortunately, or rather, fortunately for the 41 years that we of him on this Earth, that just simply was not the case.

Rest in Peace, Mamba. Thanks for establishing the Mentality we can all adopt to find our own greatness.

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