The Tragedy of Kobe’s Final Lesson

Dy: Derek Lewis

As we all wrestle with the reaper daily, Kobe Bryant’s sudden death swiftly reminded us all what a losing proposition that battle is.

And just like in life, Kobe Bryant’s death casts a long shadow over one of entertainment’s most prominent nights on the 2020 calendar. Unlike in life, he did so for reasons no one wanted. 

To add further insult to death, a beautiful, vibrant young talent was just as tragically snatched from our arms in Kobe’s daughter, Gianna.

As we stare into the mirror to make sense of a sense-less tragedy, the reflection staring back chilled the bones and has already began a reimagining on an individual’s daily impact. 

For better or worse, Kobe Bryant represented control. From the moment he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets and quickly traded to the Los Angeles Lakers at his behest, he exerted a control over his destiny and image with unimaginable ferocity. 

From sticking his tongue out like Michael Jordan to his big smile in Sprite commercials – if you’re wondering how Sprite became the Black soda, SNL, look no further than Kobe Bryant – to literally willing a 2000 NBA Finals game four victory after league MVP, Shaquille O’Neal, fouled out and left him to battle Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers alone, Kobe exerted a maniacal control over his surroundings like few others had.

But, if Kobe was truly in control, how could his legacy end like this? How could he let the extension to his legacy, his daughter’s life, end like this?

Make no mistake about it, Gianna was set to add another dimension to her father’s past and future that was both beautiful and complicated. In a life full of accomplishments, her ascension in the basketball world was on track to rival dear ol’ dad and she was hungry for it. 

A single clip puts their fire on that subject into context.

“[Gianna will] be standing next to me, and it’ll be like, ‘And you gotta have a boy. You and V gotta have a boy, have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy.’” Kobe told Jimmy Kimmel during a 2018 interview. “She’s like, ‘I got this. No boy for that, I got this.'”

Gianna stands out as a fierce leader and competitor in her own right. Her dad may have been the teacher, but that story illustrates she wasn’t content to just be an addendum to her father’s legacy but wanted to exert his level of control on her own path. 

Just as striking as her confidence was Kobe’s assurance. In a patriarchal world where it’s beaten into our heads that fathers pass their legacy from son to son, Kobe was content to buck “tradition.” There’s that control again. He trusted her. He nurtured her. Kobe’s retelling of the story burst with a pride that revealed an acceptance of his daughter’s assessment. 

And he was all in. She was all in. We were all in. 

Instead, tragedy. 

Kobe’s story now rests incomplete on the page. A thrilling yet fraught and complicated transformation from being accused of sexual assault in 2004 to a family man of four daughters and WNBA ambassador now left with a hole the size of Kobe’s 81-point game.

And while Kobe’s story is left unfinished; his daughters had yet to even be written. His inability to control that tragedy ranks top on the list of a father’s worst nightmare. 

Simultaneous losses pointing a mirror directly at us to shine a light on life’s biggest weak point – it’s fragility. 

Kobe Bryant was many things. Despite his level of control and his knack for deciding how his story was written, the bad shown through, too. He was a demanding, sometimes destructive, teammate. His singular focus on basketball and greatness ate ruled his soul to a fault at times. Whatever happened in Colorado – only his accuser and him truly know – we at least know he cheated on his wife. 

Kobe’s life was complicated. He grew up before our eyes. He seemingly became a better man before our eyes. He gave all he had to the game of basketball. He gave all he had to his daughters. His imagination on the basketball court was only matched by his imagination off it. His Oscar in the short film category is proof of that. 

Like most people, Kobe’s strengths led to his weaknesses. Like most people, he isn’t pure good or pure evil. He’s just a man trying his best to exert his will on his life to improve the world and get whatever joy he feels owed throughout the process. 

Most will remember Kobe as a legendary basketball player who was determined to train up the next generation of hoopers. Some will remember him as a generous philanthropist and pioneer. Others will remember him as heated rival turned affable ally. Four will remember him as a loving father and husband. One will remember him as her tormenter. 

Unfortunately, what will get lost to time will be the legacy left unwritten. All the things he would have done but never had the chance. Kobe had so much left to offer this world including training and watching his daughter take his mantle and likely improve upon the design. 

Every day, all of us fumble for control of our lives. For whatever his faults, Kobe Bryant lived every day by attacking it as if it could be the last. That reality came far too soon. 

But, if you learn nothing else from a complicated yet storied life, learn this.

One imperfect person can have a profound effect on this world. All of us won’t get a chance to finish what we start or in Gianna’s case get the chance to start at all; so we owe it to them to carry on. We owe it to them to live life voraciously and fully. 

We owe it to them to make the world a better place because none of us have enough control to know when we’re leaving it. 

Not even Kobe Bean Bryant. 

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