What You Can Learn From Kobe Bryant... By Chad Kanoff
What You Can Learn From Kobe Bryant
This past month we passed by 8/24, or to lovers of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Mamba Day —#8 and #24 were Kobe’s jersey numbers during his storied 20 year career. For me, Mamba Day meant a little more reflection on the man that I grew up worshipping.
At my 6th birthday party I remember blowing out the candles wishing I could be in the NBA and play with Kobe. While I didn’t get to live that dream, I’m not sure I would have become a college athlete without his influence. I know I wouldn’t have played professionally without having grown up watching him. I couldn’t have been luckier to have such a good role model as an athlete, but also a role model for how to live my life. Below is a shorter version of a longer piece that I’ll post in a link at the bottom explaining why I feel so lucky to have had him as a role model for 25 years of my life.
His talent for basketball wasn’t an accident
When you learn about Kobe’s approach to the game, you see his success was not an accident. In talking about why the Lakers were right to keep him instead of Shaq, you get a taste of his mindset: “If you’re going to bet, you got to bet on the horse that you know is obsessive about what they do, day in and day out, and is going to be hell bent on trying to win a championship. If you’re going to bet on a horse, you always bet on the one that eats, sleeps and breathes the craft.” He for whatever reason was possessed by basketball from a young age, set his sights on being one of the greatest to ever play the game, and achieved that goal over 20 years by relentlessly perfecting his craft. He had obvious physical gifts, but he wasn’t the most genetically gifted; he wasn’t Shaq, he’s not Lebron, he didn’t float in the air like Michael Jordan. He was in the .1% (he was 6’6 and his dad played professional basketball) but definitely not the .001%. But he was the most competitive, grittiest and determined; he was and is the Mamba Mentality.
The stories of his work ethic are literally endless: being at the gym in a full sweat hours and hours before practice, shooting two thousand shots a day in the offseason, waking up in the middle of the night to get a workout in, waking his teammates up at 5 am for a workout the night after going clubbing. Even at age 18, after airballing 4 times in a playoff game, when he landed in Los Angeles that night, he went to the Pali High gym and shot until daylight. People joke but in a serious way that if Kobe got an injury you just half the usual recovery time for his return because he’s going to attack the rehab like no one else. The fruits of his labor were clear every time you turned on the TV and saw him take and make shots no one else would even dare.
He was a living breathing testament to the power of someone shaping their world. When supreme, but perhaps not superhuman talent combines with a maniacal work ethic and drive, he showed literally that the sky’s the limit. He said as much at his retirement ceremony that he addressed to his daughters, “Those times when you get up early and work hard, those times when you stay up late and you work hard, those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t want to push your self, but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. That’s the dream. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. And if you guys can understand that, then what you’ll see happen is you won’t accomplish your dreams, your dreams won’t come true; something greater will.”
He makes you believe you can bend the universe too
When you spend countless hours over your lifetime watching him play, watching his highlights, watching his interviews, hearing what his teammates have to say about him, you start to believe that you too can accomplish the impossible. That’s really what it’s about to be a Kobe fan. While you might not become the greatest of all time, can you be the best that you can be at whatever you want to dedicate yourself to? Can you make sure that no one is ever working harder than you? Can you at least channel a little bit of the mamba mentality when there is something that you really want to accomplish? Kobe did, so why can’t you? Whether you’re a high school athlete, a teacher, a writer, an investor, a doctor or working towards any goal, watching, reading and hearing about him makes you think you can achieve your dreams. It makes you think you can bend the universe to your will in the same way he did. Because if you’d watched him for his whole career you’d have seen him accomplish the impossible night in and night out.
He proved this principle more than anything in the years since he stopped being a basketball player. He won an academy award, became a best selling author, owned and operated top flight training facilities in Los Angeles, and was by all accounts an A+ dad. In just the start of his freaking 2nd act. He was a living breathing example of a process that’s beautiful and simple. If you followed Kobe your whole life, none of these accomplishments outside of basketball are surprising; you knew he was successful in basketball because of the work he put in, and that if he applied himself to another area, he would again obviously be successful.
A real life Achilles, the man in the arena
The saga of Kobe Bryant unfortunately had a tragic ending, when his helicopter crashed and he, his daughter, and 7 others perished. While Kobe, and no human being can overcome death, thinking about death does make you appreciate how little time you have on this earth, and how you should best spend it. Kobe’s life offers a great example of how to dedicate your life to your passions and live a life of consequence with however much time you do get.
In a world of Twitter reactions and social media celebrities where people have worldwide fame and millions of “followers” for next to no reason, Kobe had worldwide fame because he struggled and battled to be at the top of his craft. Anyone who knows the story of Kobe Bryant has seen firsthand what Teddy Roosevelt meant when he talked about the man in the arena. If nothing else, Kobe fought and struggled. It’s so easy to say ‘I can’t become this’, ‘I won’t be able to do that,’ ‘this didn’t work out because.’ It’s a lot harder to actually struggle to attain your goals. Kobe was the guy fighting, struggling, and gritting his teeth to get what he wanted.
He wanted to write stories to inspire kids, but he could never write a story as compelling, motivating and beautiful as the one he lived. He’s a real life Achilles, that existed on more than just a page. While Kobe didn’t choose to have a short life like his mythological counterpart, he will certainly be remembered for eternity by anyone willing to sacrifice for an ambitious goal, not make excuses, and who believes that they can shape their own world by bringing it every freakin day.