8 days ago the world was shocked by the tragic and sudden loss of global basketball superstar Kobe Bryant along with his daughter Gigi, and 7 others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I had been having a conversation with my good friend and partner in Agency Elephant, Brian Blair. He shot me the message as I was pulling into a parking spot at my local grocery store on Sunday afternoon.
I sat there stunned for a good 3 minutes and began to find myself overcome with emotion.
Felt silly to be getting emotional over a basketball player but it was a moment for me that just felt very close to home despite it happening 3,000+ miles away to a people I never knew.
Kobe Bryant was 41 years old when he passed away and I turn 41 in less than 2 weeks from today.
He was married with 4 children and I am married with 3.
He is a legend in his field and we are working hard to be remembered in ours.
What struck me so hard about the entire thing was the humanity of it all.
Kobe Bryant was the last athlete I really looked up to as a kid.
He was a rookie at age 18 when I was a senior at Chaminade High School on Long Island.
I watched him all through college and my junior and senior year he won the title alongside Shaquille O’Neal.
Kobe Bryant had two goals in his career – winning championships and scoring.
His career in a lot of ways mirrors many of ours
Starting off with a lot of promise and coming out the gates doing extremely well.
When we are young we often believe we are prepared to take on bigger roles and be in the spotlight long before we were actually ready.
We have people in our careers that challenge us that we respect but do not particularly care for.
We have people we had to work with to get things done that we did not like.
We think we deserve way more than the people around us think. He thought he should be option #1 on the Lakers… I thought after having a solid first year in mortgages that I should basically own the company.
We were all wrong. Ignorant, naïve, immature, and entitled.
How the real world actually operates was the wake up call that most of us get in our early 20’s.
As we built our resumes and grew our games we all either adapt and win... or refuse to see the error of our ways and remain where we started.
As we get a little older and wiser in our careers… we settle into roles that we earn in due time… and evolveto be leaders that lead by work ethic and example and mentor newer and younger people and help them achieve great things.
It’s a career who I have quietly felt mirrored mine on a much grander scale for a long time.
What really made the story tough was knowing that a man who had recently found peace in his heart… a man who was transitioning from being a stone cold closer… to being a softer, loving, caring, nurturing teacher, father, husband, son, and coach.. a man who achieved global fame and untold fortune… with a literal lifetime ahead of him to give back to the world..
A family man who had sunk his post-NBA life into raising 4 young women was taken from this world in an instant.
And that my friend… can happen to any of us at any given time.
I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the qualities of Kobe Bryant that we as entrepreneurs and business owners can learn from and admire.
Work ethic – The man showed up before everyone… left after everyone… outworked everyone…
Tenacity – If you ever watched him get after it – there was no stopping until he got what he was after.
Dedication and commitment – Kobe played for one team and one team only his entire career.. all 20 years… despite having many opportunities to go elsewhere and play in bigger roles or for more money.
Practice – Despite being the best basketball player on the planet for a decade, Kobe was constantly improving his game. Every offseason he came back with new moves… more range.. more accuracy
Discipline – To achieve and maintain the status he reached as an athlete requires a tremendous ability to stay on task and not get distracted… and as a global celebrity the opportunities to derail are countless and endless.
Maturity – We watched him grow up in front of our very eyes. We watched him make major mistakes professionally and personally. And we watched him handle them and own them publicly and learn from them and become a better person for it.
Leadership – we watched a man go from an “all eyes on me” approach to the game to a “lets win this together” approach
Humility - A man who had several major mistakes in his career own them, learn about them, learn from them, and rise up as an advocate against his own transgressions. A point that for many, makes him tough to admire.
Was the man perfect?
Far from it.
In 2003 he dealt with a situation he created for himself that will tarnish his legacy in the minds of many forever. Straying from his marriage, he cheated on his wife with a woman who later went on to say the act was not consensual. He will be looked at by many in a very similar light as other famous athletes that found themselves wrapped up in dramatic scandals and all the positive he brought to this world will never be acknowledged.
He was also fined $100,000 by the NBA for referring to a referee as an anti LGBT slur. A move that sent him down a path to learn about a lifestyle he knew little about.
I am not asking you to admire him for his transgressions, mistakes, and disasters. I am asking you to look beyond them as a person who has things they have done that they are not proud of. As a person capable of finding forgiveness. As a person who has been in need of forgiveness at points in your own life.
I am asking you to look at the man who had a tremendous amount of positive qualities shown throughout his career and his ability to find the humility to learn from and apologize for his mistakes – something that many of us today struggle to do as adults.
Many do not realize that since his retirement he has been very focused on his family, his businesses, supporting women’s sports, advocating for LGBT causes, and he has always been highly charitable and involved in advocating and helping those who can not advocate or help themselves.
He had granted over 100 wishes in 20 years for Make a Wish. He hosted basketball camps for the Boys and Girls Club of America. He was the spokesman for After School All Stars, He supported cancer initiatives and in 2012 helped Stand up to Cancer raise more than $80 million for cancer support. He raised 2.5 million from 2012-17 through his own foundation. He was a part of Step up on Second and My Friends Place, trying to help combat homelessness in LA. He led a youth soccer club called Mamba FC. The Kobe Bryant China Fund raised $6 million for education and sports programs for children in China and the US.
He had recently trademarked the name “Mambacita” for his now deceased daughter Gigi, who at age 13 was already being looked at by UConn for college ball and was already being heralded a future superstar of the WNBA. He was going all in on helping his child achieve her dreams.
I say all of the above to say this.
There is a lot to learn from Kobe Bryant as a business owner and entrepreneur.
How to conduct ourselves in business… how to really get after it… how to take our gifts and blessings and share them with others… how to grow… how to recover from major falls… how to deal with fierce and deserved scrutiny.. how to evolve… how to own mistakes… how to win
While so many are focused on the loss of a basketball player..
I find myself focused on the man.
The man he was on and off the court who had so much for all of us business owners and entrepreneurs to learn from.. both what to do and what not to do… how to conduct ourselves… how to bounce back… how to learn from our transgressions… how to be great… how to make good… how to share the abundance some of us find with the world..
An imperfect person making the absolute most of what he was given and doing something special with it for himself, his family, and the world.
If you cant find a few things to learn from this mans life and legacy you are simply choosing to focus on the wrong things… which may also tell you something about you.
Rest in peace Mamba and Mambacita.
The lessons and impact you made on my and many others lives will live on.