In the early hours of Sunday, January 26th, 2020 NBA Legend Kobe Bryant was involved in a fatal helicopter crash that claimed his life and that of seven other passengers, including Kobe’s daughter, Gianna.
It was only a week prior to the accident that a clip was released showing Kobe and Gianna sitting courtside at a basketball game enjoying quality father-daughter time. In the clip, Kobe is leaning in and explaining different plays and elements of the sport he excelled at for so long. The day before his passing, Kobe congratulated fellow athlete Lebron James on Twitter for taking the 3rd spot to surpass his scoring record – a rare feat due to the competitive nature of basketball.
When news broke of the helicopter crash, the world exploded with an outcry of shock and grief.
Kobe was a legend in the basketball community and an example of excellence on the world stage. Few athletes see career longevity and success the way that Kobe did. After his illustrious 20-season career, Kobe retired at age 37 and even went on to film an Oscar-winning documentary. He founded multiple youth sports foundations and a sports academy where he coached, all while remaining a loving, devoted family man to his daughters and wife. He lived a full life.
The countless conversations following Kobe’s death illustrate the immense impact that his life had on the world. His sudden death reminds us of the fragility of life and to use now as the perfect time to work toward actualizing our capabilities.
While the media coverage and tributes have faded, we at flightunit are able to gather what we call the five feathers, or what Kobe would call the “Mamba Mentality,” to soar above obstacles and challenges.
Feather #1: Passion
Kobe always had the DNA and the mindset of an elite basketball player. Being born to a father who was a successful NBA player, it’s no surprise that he physically excelled at the sport. But, physical prowess isn’t all it takes – passion is also crucial to success.
Kobe loved basketball and cultivated passion for it from the tender age of 2. In his early years, he would feel uncomfortable and insufficient if he went too long without holding a basketball. While in school, Kobe would arrive early to practice drills with his coach. Sometimes he would even practice alone, with only the school janitor watching. Kobe never needed to be forced to practice – there was a natural pull toward basketball. This “natural pull” is important when discovering the direction of our passion. We must remember to listen to it.
Feather #2: Obsession
Passion isn’t always enough to rise to the top. Kobe was obsessed with basketball. His obsession was evident in how he studied the intricate and ever-changing details of the game to become an icon of the sport. From knowing the smell and sound of dribbling a basketball to understanding different players’ signature moves, Kobe was truly intrigued by every facet of the game.
Passion combined with obsession is required to achieve outstanding levels of greatness. Although Kobe’s obsessive nature sometimes rubbed competitors and teammates the wrong way, it also led to him being the youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points.
Feather #3: Relentlessness
Kobe’s early years in basketball took place in Italy, where he was taller and faster than most other boys his age. At 11, Kobe moved to the United States to continue his dream, but quickly realized that he lost his physical advantage – his competitors in the U.S. were much taller and stronger than him. Though he suffered some initial embarrassment, Kobe used his disadvantages to fuel his motivation to train. He wanted to be better. He wanted to be the best. His unyielding approach led him to practice to the point of excellence. He was drafted into the NBA straight out of high school at age 18, the youngest player in history at the time, and had a spectacular career as an athlete with 5 NBA championships, 2 Olympic gold medals, and as an 18-time NBA All-Star.
To be the best version of yourself, you need to be relentless in the face of challenges. Every day, you must commit to the quest relentlessly and not succumb to shortcomings.
Feather #4: Resilience
Despite his skills and successes, Kobe didn’t have a perfect slate. His career was complicated by instances of conflict – whether with coaches, teammates, competitors, or the greater public. Kobe’s most notable incident was in 2003, when he was charged with sexual assault. Kobe proclaimed himself innocent and the charges were later dropped as he and the accuser reached a civil settlement. After that, a dark cloud hung over him. He faced endless media backlash and a tarnished reputation. This motivated Kobe to brand himself with the nickname “Black Mamba” to separate the personal negative media coverage from his basketball efforts. He continued to step onto the court with a resilient, stone-cold “Mamba” attitude.
Relentlessness applied in times of challenge or hardship gives one the ability to push forward and recover, regardless of how heavy, dark, or difficult the situation. This practice builds resiliency and is crucial towards self-actualization.
Feather #5: Fearlessness
Kobe’s entire life is a demonstration of fearlessness. From an early age, Kobe was aware of his dream and chased it – he wanted to be the best basketball player in the world. He fearlessly pursued his goal, not knowing whether he would achieve it or fail. By the time he retired at 37, he had undoubtedly achieved that goal, considering the legacy he created. Following Kobe’s passing, it was announced that he would be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in late August of 2020.
Recognizing and claiming our desires is something that most of people are afraid of. The uncertainty of achievement often plants seeds of fear that overgrow and overwhelm. When we focus on the distance between our position and our goals, it’s easy to get discouraged and deny our desires. However, it’s the process and steps to achieving goals through cultivating the ethics outlined above that we should focus on.
Although Kobe retired in 2016, his core ethics continue to help and thrive in the development of players, both young and old, at his Mamba Foundation Legacy. Moreover, as one career ended for Kobe new ones grew. Prior to his passing, he had undertaken new endeavours of storytelling, and was more engaged in his primary role as a father and a husband.
Implementing all five of these feathers can be a huge challenge. However, if they’re effectively applied, we will see an incredible outcome. We can start by fearlessly accepting our passion for our dreams, obsessing over the journey, relentlessly applying ourselves in pursuit of growth, and remaining resilient in the face of challenges or shortcomings.
Though, for Kobe Bryant, we mourn the death of a passionate life, we can leverage the teaching and practices found within these five feathers to carry on the legacy and fuel our journey to soar to our highest potential.