One Year Later: Kobe Bryant's 4 Pillars Of Excellence
It has been one year since Kobe Bryant was tragically killed in a helicopter crash with his daughter, Gigi and seven other people, who were her teammates and their parents.
I wasn't sure what to do for this post. There will be so many tributes to the Black Mamba and I wasn't even a Kobe fan to be honest with you. I grew up a Boston Celtics fan and hated Kobe! But he elevated the game and heightened the competition in a way only a few ever have. Last year, it was amazing to see the outpouring of love from around the world. Being here in the heart of Los Angeles, everything was intensified.
A year later, the city is still mourning the death of its legend. Kobe Bryant was so much bigger than basketball as he became an example of fatherhood, leadership and excellence.. His pride did get him in trouble and it is important to acknowledge he was a flawed man, something I struggled with last year as everyone was paying tribute in various forms. But processing everything now, I think part of what makes him so great is how he did find redemption and ultimately chose to be a family man, a dedicated husband and a girl dad.
For my Kobe Bryant tribute a year after his death, I want to point out four pillars that made Kobe Bryant who he was and what has carried his legacy past his time here on earth.
Knowledge - Kobe Bryant was an extremely intelligent man. He was the opposite of "shut up and dribble." He spoke multiple languages and was an intellectual about how he approached all aspects of the game. In his book, "Mamba Mentality: How I Play" he explains how he'd read the referee manual to know how to finesse his game. Something Kobe taught us was to use knowledge as a tool to perform at our most elite level.
Ownership - Kobe Bryant was a man of ownership. From taking responsibility for his past mistakes to opening the Mamba Sports Academy to give young athletes a platform to discover their own greatness, he never let others run his life. There were even reports that, despite the success of his Nike collaboration, he had plans to separate from the athletic giant to start his own Mamba shoe company. And we all know that would have flown off the shelves.
Boldness - If Kobe Bryant was anything, it was bold. The 18x All-Star and 5x NBA Finals winner didn't accomplish everything in his career by playing soft and meek. In Shaq's gut-wrenching speech at Kobe's funeral, he recalled a moment where their Los Angeles Lakers teammates were complaining that Kobe wasn't sharing the ball. "Kobe, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’," Shaq pleaded with the guard. Kobe's response was nothing less than iconic, "I know, but there’s an ‘M-E’ in that motherf*cker.'”
Equality - What many are mourning about Kobe Bryant's legacy is how his work fighting for women's basketball was tragically cut so short. Besides coaching Gigi, he was a mentor to Oregon Ducks (now New York Liberty) star Sabrina Ionescu. He also was a dear friend to Phoenix Mercury great Diana Taurasi. She channeled so much of Kobe's mentality that she earned the nickname White Mamba. As the WNBA continues to fight for equality and young girls across the nation and world continue to need positive athlete role models, we celebrate the work that Kobe put in to give women an opportunity to be recognized as the elite athletes that they are.
So as we reflect on the lasting legacy of the Black Mamba, may we continue to live in Knowledge — educating ourselves and strengthening our minds, Ownership — being accountable for our actions and responsible for our own well-being, Boldness — speaking up and living in confidence of our God-given gifts, and Equality — fighting for fairness and giving credit to excellence where it is due.