Legacy of Courage

As we were finishing a late breakfast, a notification goes off on his phone. “Mom, it’s bad news. It’s really bad news.” I struggled to process the words that came out of my son’s mouth as he proceeded to inform me about the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. Fragmented details were beginning to be uncovered and released while we sat in silence. Only my unrestrained sobs and tears would disrupt the quiet at our table.

Like many, throughout the night I sifted through news stories, reactions from those who knew Kobe, and highlights of his excellence both on and off the court. I watched videos of dunks, interviews, award ceremonies, and his interactions with fans. I repeatedly watched his film DEAR BASKETBALL and cried each time. Then it happened as it often does in the cyber world. I came across a piece of his past that for many became overshadowed by his greatness. Along with it came the ugly comments and distasteful timing of people who saw the loss of his life as an opportunity to judge, condemn, and discredit his global contributions to others through leadership, sports, arts, and entrepreneurship. The duality was jarring and heartbreaking primarily because I was still trying to make sense of what this all meant to me and his fans, teammates and players, friends and family…and most specifically his wife and children. What does he leave behind for us?

My mind swirled around his extraordinary transcendence beyond basketball. We must remember that he was much more than an LA Lakers megastar. Looking at the photos of him with his beautiful family made it so clear to me that the NBA achievements couldn’t possibility be the most valuable parts of his legacy.

Kobe Bryant’s talents brought him global attention early in his life. Because of this attention, his strengths and weaknesses were displayed for the world to see. Most of us will never know the courage it takes to have not only your greatness celebrated by the masses but to have your darkest moments also critiqued so publicly. I believe Kobe’s legacy is indeed that courage. He is an example of what it means to accept the vulnerability of having both your lightness and darkness exposed. He demonstrated how to manage unwavering determination to climb out of the valley to use those painful scars, mistakes, and regrets to ascend the second mountain.

There is a Kobe Bryant in each of us. We all have the potential for greatness when we recognize our talents and remain steadfast in mastering them. With focus and vision, we can use our talents to serve and contribute to good. And don’t underestimate our potential to cause great pain to others through our mistakes. We have or will make them. Bravely facing our shortcomings will propel us forward to a better version of ourselves. Most of us will be able to ignore, deny, or hide them from the world. I am learning that gathering the courage to accept and learn from my mistakes, no matter how dark or painful is critical for growth in this life. In fact, it seems the deeper the pain the greater the healing, the greater the growth. Some of my most valued life lessons followed tragic moments in my life. The loss of my favorite Laker legend has been added to that list of moments.

Thank you, Kobe, for reminding me of my potential for both meaningful greatness and destructive shortcomings. Thank you for demonstrating courage to not be defined by the dark moments in my life but to use those dark moments to become better.

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