Kobe, The Inspiration

“There’s a lot of trash talking on the court, but nobody ever said shit to Kobe.”-Kenyon Martin, retired NBA player

I can’t even look at the picture without crying. Surely you know which picture I am talking about, the one with Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, sitting courtside recently at an NBA game, hugging and both grinning from ear to ear. Every time it pops up, I cry. Every single time.

Last Sunday afternoon, I was watching Tiger Woods play on television in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open. In Mississippi, the rain was falling outside my window, and I was so excited to be taking my son to New Orleans in just a couple of hours to watch Zion Williamson’s Pelicans play Kemba Walker’s Boston Celtics. Then my phone vibrated, which was not unusual, but then it vibrated again. And again. And again. I picked it up, and the texts might as well have been in Japanese. What are these people talking about? Kobe Bryant dead? What a terrible, horrible joke. Impossible. How can Kobe be gone?

I’m not usually one to chime in or get emotional about celebrity chatter, but this one got me. Kobe was my must see. Kobe was greatness. Kobe was…an inspiration.

For the first few hours after the news, I could not articulate the reason, other than the obvious, that I was so sad. Then, late on Sunday night after returning home from New Orleans, I heard Stephen A. Smith say something that Kobe believed and that he was teaching his daughters. Place no limitations on yourself. That hit the nail on the head for me.

If you want to move to Mississippi, quit your job, live in temporary housing, sell your stuff, completely change your life, write, travel, get really good at golf at the age of 37, run two marathons, beat arthritis, be better, and help others be better too, find a way to do it.

If there is something you really want to do with your life, work on it.

Find a way. Work harder. Work smarter. Reprioritize. Refocus. No excuses. No limitations.

My favorite words to describe why I loved Kobe are relentless and tenacious. Just as Kenyon Martin said above, talk smack to Kobe, and he would torch you. I LOVED that. I love hearing all of these Kobe stories because I have a few great memories of him myself. I watched him drop 58 in person. I watched him get red ass hot. I watched him foul out, get jeered/serenaded with “Hit the Road Jack”, and saw his body language say, “I’ll remember this.” I LOVED it. I would get giddy on Lakers in Charlotte Day. I caught a glimpse of him one year at the Ritz-Carlton before midday shoot around, and by the way I reacted, you would have thought I’d seen Jesus, The Beatles, and Prince. (You also would have thought I was 14 years old instead of 30.).

I loved how Kobe rolled solo with no entourage or clique. I loved how he willed things into existence. I loved how he always wanted the ball in his hands at crunch time. I loved watching the scowl on his face become a giant grin over time, realizing later in life that life is nothing if you can’t share it with others. Needless to say, I liked older Kobe better than younger Kobe. He was always getting better. Always.

I cried more on Sunday and Monday than I have cried in a long time, over a man that I didn’t know and had never met, save for that brief glimpse at the Charlotte Ritz-Carlton. The whole situation had me in a fog, and I just needed to go play outside. So about 2:30pm on a chilly, wet Mississippi Monday, I went out to the golf course to clear my mind, and I fired a 73, the best round of my life.

Everyone around me wanted to celebrate, but I just wanted to go work even harder.

I’m not overlooking Kobe’s imperfections and alleged sins. I am also certainly not overlooking the other fine folks who were on that helicopter…I seriously can’t even imagine. But I just know how alive watching Kobe in person made me feel, and how I felt on Sunday knowing that the man who inspired me from afar to be better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today no longer had a tomorrow himself.

And that made me very sad.

Place no limitations on yourself.

Have a great week.-Benj

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2 thoughts on “Kobe, The Inspiration

  1. Outstanding, Benj. I had been reading a lot and watching videos of interviews, etc. which I would not normally do re a sports person for whatever reason. I got “hooked” on him and realized how sad it was that he was gone for so many reasons to so many people.

    You wrote it beautifully. Thank you.

    jan

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    Liked by 1 person

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