The news of Kobe Bryant’s passing rocked the entire world. Just a few weeks into a new decade, we collectively felt the loss of a person that seemed larger than life.
Bryant was more than his impressive record on the court. You didn’t have to be a Lakers fan to appreciate his All-Star status, championship wins, and dedication to inspire the next generation even after his retirement from basketball.
This was especially evident in the stories that Bryant’s family, friends, teammates, and fans told in the aftermath of his tragic passing. And in reading this article from the Los Angeles Times, it struck me how this mournful storytelling is one of the most beautiful ways that we could honor this man’s legacy.
Kobe Bryant himself had a passion for storytelling. Throughout and beyond his 20 season career, Bryant turned to storytelling and creative media to shape his identity, express himself, connect with others, and find inspiration in unexpected places. He announced his retirement with a poem titled “Dear Basketball,” later adapted into an animated short that won him an Academy Award, Emmy Award, among other accolades. The film Dear Basketball was the inaugural project of Bryant’s production company Granity Studios, which he founded to showcase diverse stories and foster inclusion in the industry.
Bryant told Sports Illustrated in 2018, “What I love is storytelling. I love the idea of creative content whether it’s mythology or animation, written or film, that can inspire people and give them something tangible they can use in their own lives.”
Storytelling has been embedded in our evolution since the beginning of time. It is universal to all cultures, a phenomenon in itself for its power and global currency. And despite storytelling being an age-old tradition of the past, despite the rise of logic and scientific inquiry, storytelling is still one of the most critical skills we can master in the modern world.
Kobe Bryant knew this well, and dedicated his post-basketball career to keeping the integrity of this practice alive.
The Why of Storytelling: Three Reasons to Incorporate More Story In Your Everyday
#1. Identifying as a storyteller can help you feel empowered in your own life.
“As a basketball player, what I found myself doing a lot was essentially conducting a game,” Bryant told the Los Angeles Times in 2017, likening his work with that of a music composer.
Instead of leaving his basketball games to chance or the work of his teammates, Bryant took responsibility for the elements that make a great game, and saw each moment as an opportunity to lead well and create the success he envisioned for his team.
When you reframe your life as a narrative that you can control, you will find the agency and creativity to compose it to your liking. Seeing yourself as the hero of your own story, as well as the storyteller that drives the unfolding, can help you make transformative life changes. It makes you more invested in the relationships you have, as well as the progress you make each and every day.
This mindset shift will bust you out of victim mode and into one of responsibility and ownership.
#2. Story helps us foster connections with others and form bonds through diversity.
Growing up in Belgium, earning my MBA in the United States, and traveling across continents throughout my professional career, I’ve learned the key to a better, more open world is sharing cultures and stories.
Bryant knew the importance of this, too. In a statement he made regarding his exclusion as a juror from the Animation Is Film Festival, he said, “This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry. I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters and leadership in order to inspire the next generation.”
Storytelling invites emotional connection in a way that facts, figures, and straightforward information cannot. Stories open a pathway to learning through empathy; they help us relate to the experiences of others that otherwise would feel foreign and incomprehensible. In this way, storytelling acts to de-escalate feelings of risk and threat; they create safe emotional places where tellers and listeners alike can share in the vulnerability, break away from preconceived notions, and make way for understanding and collaboration.
Herein lies one of the most powerful ways we can connect with different cultures and break barriers that have historically hindered peace, wellbeing, and innovation. That’s why I joined the team at Culture Trip in the first place—we invite a new kind of travel by sharing authentic stories from a local’s point of view. Through illustration, animation, editorial, video, and photography, we are able to share rich, diverse stories from across the world and build a sense of unity and inclusion at the same time.
#3. Stories can act as a pathway for change—for better or for worse.
“It feels great to see the book finally finished. But the greatest part is that I hope it teaches the next generation about what it means to really go after something — I mean, obsessively go after it,” Bryant said in an interview on the release of his book Mamba Mentality.
There is no doubt that stories can inspire change in yourself and others, change that can impact the trajectory of our lives and society for years and centuries to come. But change has its consequences—it can be beneficial, detrimental, or fall somewhere in between. This is why we assume great responsibility when we tell and subscribe to stories.
On a societal level, stories can shine light on flaws in our systems and collective consciousness, and how to shift those for the better. However, they can also act as barriers to innovation and creativity, especially if we limit our visions (stories) of the future based on patterns of the past. At their worst, stories can perpetuate status quos that cause harm, or instill an anger that proves terribly destructive.
On a personal level, it is important to regularly evaluate the story that you tell about yourself. As I mentioned earlier, you are the narrator of your own story. Make sure the story you are telling about yourself is one that uplifts you. It takes awareness and diligence to rewrite the stories that harm us and no longer serve our goals.
Kobe Bryant’s legacy lives on in the stories he told and helped craft. I invite you, too, to consider the stories that make up your day-to-day. How do they influence your decisions and your trajectory? How you might try writing an even better one?