Growing up I wanted to be Michael Jordan. I didn’t want to “be like Mike,” I wanted to be Michael Jordan. (I was young, OK?) The Bulls dominated the NBA in the 90s and I was right in the age range for kids looking up to MJ. I also grew up in Massachusetts and there was no love lost for the Los Angeles Lakers because of their historic rivalry with the Boston Celtics. As much as I loved the Bulls, my allegiance was always with all Boston teams. And their enemies, especially the Lakers and the Yankees, were my enemies.
So when this young kid came on the scene, cocky and brash. Straight out of High School, they were calling him the next Michael Jordan. This I did not like. Better than Michael Jordan? Blasphemy! This man also played for my team's rival, the Los Angeles Lakers. The stars were aligned, I was no fan of Kobe Bryant.
Fast forward to January 26, 2020, and I’m shaken up. I got rid of my ridiculous grudge against the man. A grudge only a young sports fan could have. The more I heard about him, the more I respected his work ethic. As a kid I may have wanted to be Michael Jordan, Kobe wanted more than that, and he worked at it. He put forth the persistence and perseverance to not just be Michael Jordan. He was instead, Kobe Bryant, a class of his own. And his love for the game was undeniable.
This helicopter crash is tragic, not just because we lost a great man, but other people’s lives were stopped early as well. One of them, his 13-year-old daughter, gone way before her time. It’s heartbreaking.
But right now I want to think about this man and what he taught us about being a noble human. I want to talk about him because life is short, and you need to make every bit count. He certainly did. Kobe Bryant put more into 41 years of life than most people who make it to 82 ever have.
He was determined. His work ethic was legendary, as featured in this article by Sports Illustrated. Like the article says, when Kobe Bryant was a Senior at Lower Merion he would go to the gym and work on his game at 5 am every day before school, and stay until 7 pm working out after school. During the season he would play teammates one-on-one to 100 after practice. One of his teammates from back then, Rob Schwartz said "Sometimes he'd score 80 points before I got one basket. I think the best I ever did was to lose 100--12."
But the story that’s always stuck with me, that made me think, “Wow, this guy is special” is when he took the singer Brandy to the Prom and was seen in the gym the following day at 5 am. The day after the prom. That’s a determined individual. His workout regimen on game day was legendary. He was willing to work harder than anyone else.
Here’s Jay Williams talking about Kobe’s work ethic:
Kobe did not retire from hard work after retiring from basketball either. Here is a guy who won an Academy Award, taught himself how to play Beethoven's ‘Moonlight Sonata’ by ear, and would call entrepreneurs to pick their brains at 3 am.
Always working, always hustling, happy but never satisfied. We lost someone very special today.
10-year-old Matt was wrong. This guy was something and he deserves all the respect he gets. RIP Kobe. This one hurt.