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What Kobe Was to Me

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What Kobe Was to Me


Spouses. Fathers. Mothers. Grandpas. Grandmas. Aunts/Uncles. Siblings. All likely and common sources for people that inspire us. Generally, I’m a firm believer that our heroes are in our lives on a daily basis. And in many ways, Kobe was. Whether it was watching him play the game of basketball, trading his basketball cards at recess, choosing to be him in a video game, or even naming our family labrador retriever Kobe, he was a constant in my youth.


I’m 31 now. Like the rest of the world, I didn’t want to accept the news. Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter accident. I truly didn’t believe it. Not Kobe. He was invincible.  I went on a walk with my sister and our dogs expecting to come back to my phone only to see additional headlines of the entire story being wrong. Possibly a mistake, another false internet rumor, or an event that was simply reported too early and he actually survived. But even just the rumor made it difficult to even hold a conversation as we walked. My mind was swirling. When I got back to my car and phone, many text messages from friends along with news headlines confirmed what I had hoped to not be true… one of my heroes is no longer with us. It has weighed heavy on me ever since. I spent the next 36 hours feeling like a tear could come at any time. It felt illogical that a man I’ve never met could make me feel such grief.


Kobe was many things. He was a complex man with an intensity not many people possess. He could be a ruthless competitor, and a compassionate father. He was curious about everything and would consume lessons and information endlessly. He was a musician and incredibly brilliant. He spoke at least three languages and was working to learn Mandarin. He oozed creativity, which led him to win an Academy award immediately following basketball. Most of all he was laser focused on achieving his goals, which he tenaciously sought and achieved. THAT is what took my childhood fascination and grew into adult admiration.


There are countless stories from other Greats he interacted with over the years that tell the tale of his relentless work ethic. A work ethic that left people in awe. But it wasn’t hard work poured into just a job, or a hobby. It was hard work that was poured onto the things he loved. For 20 years in the NBA he poured his heart and soul into the game that he loved. When that was over, he poured his heart into inspiring youth to try to achieve their full potential like him. All the while pouring his whole heart into his family of 5. I can only imagine the love they felt from their dad and husband if he loved them with the same intensity as basketball, but from all accounts it wasn’t even close… he loved them so much more.


That’s why I had so much admiration for the man, and why his death continues to affect mine and the lives of millions. We understand that while he was not a perfect man, he was a perfect example of what we all want to do in this life: find something we love and pursue it with everything we have. The sadness is from our us wanting to know what was next for him because we know it would have been a success. Not everyone can shoot a basketball or dunk like him, but we all have something worthy of pouring our entire hearts into. And Kobe was the perfect example of what can be accomplished if we do.


So even though he was a distant hero, its ok for him to be that for you and me. When talking with my mom earlier today, her words to me were; “Every passing of a hero or loved one SHOULD move us deeply. And then after a while it should actually change us – our perspective, or appreciation, or actions, or capacity to love.” His passing is doing all of those things to people all over the world. He was, and will continue to be, a hero of mine.


Ben Thomas | 1-28-2020

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