By Roger Kruse
How did Kobe Bryant’s tragic death affect you? How did it make you feel? A widespread prevailing sadness has produced lots of tears, visitations to the Staples Center in L.A., interviews conducted, online memorials posted, and reflections down deep in the minds and hearts of just about everyone. When someone famous dies we often ponder our own mortality. Although we tend to avoid thinking about death, there is a nagging awareness, if not a fear, that one day, each of us will breath our last breath. Benjamin Franklin gave us the sober, but humorous reminder that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” What is particularly unnerving is that none of us knows the time, day, or even year of our departure. We may live to a ripe old age of 80, 90, or even longer. However, nothing is guaranteed. An accident may suddenly sweep us away with little or no warning. A terminal illness might come knocking at our door and barge its way into our fragile lives. A crime or tragic event could spell the end in some way we never anticipated. No wonder we are told that life and health are precious.
Kobe was a gifted athlete driven by an extraordinary drive to be the best basketball player ever. His nickname, “Black Mamba” (Mamba for short) was his own creation and reminded himself that “there was nothing that was going to get in the way, nothing that was going to stop me.” The African black mamba snake is known for its large size, quickness, and extremely potent venom. As former NBA player Richard Jefferson explained, the mamba mentality was Kobe’s singular focus to attack his goals. Needless to say, his achievements were historic, with his name now written all over the NBA record book. Since his retirement Kobe co-founded the Mamba Sports Academy as a multi-sport training center for athletes. He was traveling there with his daughter Gianna when the helicopter crashed.
Surprisingly, Kobe also described himself as a “girl dad”. As the father of four daughters, he counted it an honor to have been given such a gift. He considered girls to be “awesome” and “amazing” and challenged the archaic notion that he needed a son to follow in his footsteps. I find it interesting that he had also embarked on a new path as a story teller. He scripted audio stories titled “The Punies”, presenting lessons from a team of neighborhood friends who play sports together. All of this was born out of Kobe’s desire to share creatively with his daughters, insights about teamwork and leadership that he gleaned from his lifetime in sports.
Kobe Bryant’s life and legacy were also somewhat controversial. All of us, as we look back, see that we have made mistakes and decisions we wish we could redo. However, when our failures become opportunities to learn and grow, they become stepping stones and not stumbling blocks. They enable us to set a new course for wise living.
Kobe taught us that focus, passion and pursuing your dreams with relentless energy help us to achieve our potential and utilize our God-given gifts. Mediocrity can never do that. The Bible tells us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all you might.” In addition, Kobe showed us that family is a gift to be celebrated and nurtured. Scripture says that “children are a gift from the Lord.” Mothers and fathers have the joy and responsibility of investing themselves in their children, passing on the lessons of life that have shaped them. In matters of faith, dads and moms are exhorted to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ultimately, faith in the Lord and attention to His Word
will direct us all toward the eternal purposes of God.