Kobe Bryant’s sudden death is as tragic as it is stunning as it is impossible to fully comprehend. As humans it is our nature to be unsatisfied in the face of loss. We want more time with our friend, our loved one or, in the case of Kobe Bryant, an iconic presence in our lives. However our friend, loved one or Kobe Bryant lived it can never be enough. And in moments of loss we can be so focused on wanting more that we don’t use those moments to consider gratitude for the gifts that the departed one brought to our lives.
Much has been written and will be written – much has been spoken and will be spoken – about the spectacular gifts that accompanied Kobe Bryant’s near mythical athletic achievements. In that context he entertained us, he thrilled us and he gave us respite from the shoals of everyday life as he permitted us to fly with him to unthinkable heights of the sport that he loved so much.
Indeed, much will be written and much will be spoken about Kobe Bryant the superstar basketball phenomenon. And it is right and just that his basketball persona should be one of the reasons why we feel his departure as such a deep loss. But Kobe Bryant’s gift to us is not one dimensional.
Because Kobe Bryant demonstrated with his life that excellence is worth striving for even if perfect excellence can never be achieved to the satisfaction of those who seek it. His life narrative demands respect if only because he was a man who truly embraced his passion unapologetically and stoked the fires of that passion with a commitment that was awesome to behold.
It is true that by playing professional basketball Kobe Bryant became a millionaire many times over. But one never got the sense that money was the driving force in his quest for excellence. He competed against some of the best basketball players of his time – but in his mind he competed against the best basketball player of his time by competing against himself.
And one of his parting gifts is his having been a living, breathing illustration of what the quest of excellence looks like. Because that quest is eternal, that quest is always present and that quest is never completed. And so, whether you are a doctor or a writer or a nurse or a student or a servant of the poor or a leader of your block association – any pursuit that we choose can be the reason to enter into a quest for excellence. After all, Kobe Bryant showed us all what that quest looks like in real time.
His other gift is coincidental with his death. Without intending to do so, Kobe Bryant’s death teaches us that every moment of every day of our lives is precious. There is no way that any of us can predict which day will be the last day of our lives. And so, even as we boldly plan for the future, clearly we should also understand that it is so very important to treat every day as the precious gift that it is.
Wasting time is, in reality, actually wasting life – and so there is no time to waste.
So as we mourn the death of Kobe Bryant we should pause to give thanks for his parting gifts and find the best ways to use those gifts as we live our own lives.