What to do at a time like this. It feels as though the impossible has happened. Kobe always seemed so elemental, so invincible. When I heard the news, I kept expecting an update. Like it was some sort of trick, and he would rise from the flames, his daughter in his arms, and we would all be amazed again at his perseverance, his inevitability.
The update never came. He’s really gone.
There’s a reason Kobe soared above his contemporaries. Why he became the name we would call out in high school, when we shot crumpled up pieces of paper at the trash can. His story was not one of supernatural athleticism. He was, physically, an average NBA player. What set him apart was his work ethic.
The tales of 5am workouts before team practice, unwillingness to accept defeat, demanding greatness from those around him, they resonated so deeply in all of us because they carried with them a silent message: if you want something bad enough, and are willing to go after it with abandon, then nothing is out of reach.
No hero of our times has been more inspirational to me when it comes to work ethic. I still think about Kobe every time I go on a run, and I reach that point when my body wants to stop. I think about all the times he must have felt that way, and found it within himself to push through. Kobe’s true legend lies not in his ability to believe in himself, but in inspiring all of us to do the same.
In that sense, he will never truly die. As much as the world mourns his loss, he will never truly leave us. Someday, I will tell my kids about him. I’ll pull up all the old highlights: the 81-point game, the jammed finger, the free-throws after the torn Achilles. All the countless buzzer beaters. The 60-points in his final game. I will show them Dear Basketball, his Oscar winning poem, a testament to his love for the game he gave everything to. He will be with us as long we have mouths to tell his stories and ears to hear them.
Rest in Peace, #24
Thank you for everything.