When I saw updates on my phone about the tragic helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven other passengers last Sunday, like many, I did not believe the news at first. I waited until the major media outlets began breaking the story and then came to grips with what seemed so unbelievable.
I happened to be watching a modern basketball classic, “Coach Carter,” in between church services. “Coach Carter” came out in 2005, and I later thought how Kobe had begun to cement his basketball legacy by this time, having already won three NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in just six years in the league. As I was reading tributes and condolences pour out on social media later that evening, I noticed a Scripture reference that several of my friends posted on Facebook. It was James 4:14, which says: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
At just 41, Kobe had only lived “for a little time.” The lives of those traveling with him to attend a game for his Mamba Sports Academy girls’ basketball team were also painfully cut short. Gianna and her Mamba teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester were looking forward to playing in the game and having fun with their friends. Altobelli’s parents, John and Keri Altobelli; Chester’s mother, Sarah Chester; Christina Mauser, an assistant girl’s basketball coach; and pilot Ara Zobayan had probably organized their work and family schedules for this week. I’m sure Kobe, being a cultural icon and thriving businessman navigating his way through his post-NBA life, had thoroughly outlined his 2020 plans for most of his upcoming ventures.
Time ran out for him much sooner than any of us would have anticipated.
When the world pauses to pay homage to a deceased celebrity whom pretty much everyone refers to on a first-name basis, it’s obvious that such distinction indicates a wise and efficient use of time in reaching a sterling level of success. Thinking about life being transient like a “vapour” or a mist calls for a deep reflection on what you have done thus far with the years God has blessed you to see. How are you using your time?
In his 41 years, Kobe achieved more than what most will in an entire lifetime. His NBA accolades — five championship rings, a 12-time All-Defensive Team selection and a two-time Finals MVP, to name a few — easily place him as the best player of his generation. But his charity work during and after his basketball career was equally impressive. Kobe was generous with his money and resources through global philanthropy to help disadvantaged youth, and he established a family foundation with his wife, Vanessa Bryant, to assist the homeless in Los Angeles. He had a passion for investing in young people, and he was pouring what he called a “tactical” strategy of successful precepts into them through his Mamba Academy and undertaking of juvenile literature.
Kobe often spoke about instilling confidence in Gianna and her teammates through the toughness of sports competition, hence providing them with a “mamba mentality.” One of his 2019 children’s books, “The Wizenard Series: Training Camp,” a fictional story about the struggle of five poor basketball players to rise above low expectations, was a New York Times No. 1 bestseller.
One of the most notable qualities about Kobe was his keen awareness of just how important time is. I believe he came to know this more deeply after rededicating his life to God during one of his lowest moments, after he was accused of rape in 2003. Although the case was settled out of court, Kobe’s reputation was severely damaged. Twelve years later, Kobe would say in an ESPN interview that he wanted to be remembered as “a player that didn’t waste a moment.”
There were definitely few wasted moments in Kobe’s life, and this brings to mind another well-known Scripture, Ecclesiastes 3:2, which says that there is “a time to be born and a time to die.” We don’t know how much time we will be allotted during our lives, but Kobe’s untimely death is a stark reminder that we need to make the most of it.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at The Ohio State University-Lima. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. @JjSmojc