Why I Cry for Kobe
I’ve cried a lot since I heard the news last Sunday.
But this isn’t the first time I’ve cried for Kobe.
There’s a story I tell a story about Kobe that ALWAYS chokes me up by the end of my telling it:
It’s March 15, 2004, and the Lakers are playing the Orlando Magic in LA.
In the first half, Tracy McGrady, Kobe’s biggest rival at the time, drops 21 points in Kobe’s face.
For his part, Kobe was 0 for 3 in field goals, scoring a mere 1 point by halftime.
That spring, Kobe was in and out of courtrooms, sometimes partially missing games as a result.
And not too long before this game against Orlando, Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, kicked Kobe out the house.
McGrady later commented how he’d never seen Kobe so unfocused and passive on the court before — he didn’t even recognize him.
The Magic end the half with a commanding 11 point lead, and Kobe walks back to the locker room with his head hanging low.
Everyone comes to the conclusion that the Lakers were gonna lose, and that this was gonna end up being the worst performance of Kobe’s career.
Then sitting in the locker room, Kobe has a realization that changed everything…
Recalling the moment in a later interview, Kobe said:
“I remember sitting in the locker room at half time saying to myself ‘you know what…you may lose everything in life because of the situation you put yourself in. You may lose your family, your freedom, but I’ll be DAMNED if you lose basketball. Because this, I CAN control.”
He walks back on the court to start the third quarter, and immediately everyone notices something is different.
After scoring just one point in the first half, Kobe proceeds to drop 37 POINTS in the second, 24 of them in the 4th quarter alone, leading his team to victory.
In the weeks leading up to that game, Kobe was averaging 18 points a game. In the weeks following, he was averaging 31.
Some say this was the moment when Black Mamba was born…
For reasons I never fully understood until recently, I always choke up whenever I quote Kobe in that story.
I resonate deeply with the theme of everyone despising you for your cold-heartedness, and the whole world collapsing around you, and feeling like absolute shit about yourself for all the flaws that got you into the situation…
…and then suddenly, you tap into this profound darkness inside of you, channeling your rage into unstoppable forward action, bending the world around you to your Will.
Like everyone else, I’ve always most admired Kobe for his killer instinct.
But last Christmas I discovered a deeper part of Kobe, and cried for a different reason.
I was watching the the documentary “Muse”, where Kobe tells the story of his career with a never-before-seen candidness.
It was very emotional for me to relive the memories of my childhood from this totally new perspective.
In the film, Kobe gets to that 2004 period when his life was falling apart, and he reveals something the public never knew about before.
He starts by saying:
“It’s the man’s job to protect his family. It’s a man’s job to always be the anchor of stability for the family. And in that aspect, I failed miserably…”
Then he starts to choke up, and with tears in his eyes he says:
“We were expecting our second child during that time….um…it was just…it was just so much stress…she actually umm…you know…she actually…she actually miscarried…
It’s something I have a real hard time dealing with…you know cuz…I felt like it was just my fault. We should be building our family, but because of my mistake, we lost a baby.
We try to justify things by the fact that…you know…you don’t realize how common miscarriages are…and like…these things happen…you know…it’s part of the process.
But the reality is it happened because of me. That’s the reality of it. So that’s something I gotta deal with. That’s something I gotta carry forever.”
Hearing this, I started to cry harder than I had cried in a long time.
I too have hurt the ones I love through my sins of egotism and deceit. Sometimes when I reflect on these sins, I feel overwhelmed with shame.
As a boy watching Kobe crossover, fake out, and dunk on his opponents, I admired Kobe’s capacity for athletic dominance.
As a teenager watching Kobe fight through physical and emotional injuries, I admired Kobe’s capacity for relentless focus.
Now as a man, having watched him evolve beyond basketball into film, business, philanthropy, and fatherhood, I admire Kobe’s capacity for continual Self-Transcendence.
Even in death, I believe he is still transcending himself as his legacy expands and deepens in the hearts of millions across the globe.
When I stopped following NBA almost a decade ago, I assumed I wouldn’t pay as much attention to Kobe Bryant moving forward in my career.
Yet somehow Kobe’s consistently re-inspired me in new ways throughout my adult life. Returning from what should have been a career-ending injury, scoring 60 points in his last ever game, winning an academy award for a animated film about a poem he wrote!
I was so looking forward to seeing him surprising me again and again at each new stage of my life, never letting me lose sight of him as one of my biggest role models.
But now that he’s gone, I’ve concluded that the best thing I can do to honor his legacy is embody that “Mamba Mentality” more and more in my life, and push harder and harder in the direct of my highest self, and do my best to help others do the same.
Like Kobe said:
“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so they can be great in whatever they want to do.”
Thank you for the inspiration Kobe.