Thank you Kobe Bryant for your service to sports

Is the next generation of athletes ready to take personal sacrifice, isolate themselves from fads and pursue success with a single-minded focus?

BY DAVID ONJILI

This is an expression of my gratitude to a man whose life has inspired so many both on and off the pitch. A life cut short in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on the fateful morning of January 26, 2019 alongside his daughter Gianna Bryant and 7 others

At 41, Kobe Bryant won it all both on and off the basketball court. Black Mamba, as he was fondly called, was a huge credit to our lives.

“You asked me for my hustle and I gave you my heart. For it meant so much more,” Kobe said upon retiring from basketball at the age of 37.
To many, he was a self-centered egotistical athlete whose pursuit of greatness alienated him from many. Yet, it is these very virtues that propelled him into the greatest and most inspirational sportsman of our generation. Kobe Bryant took over from Michael Jordan as the face of the NBA and won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The choice to be great as learned from Kobe’s life is a long excruciating personal choice. Yet, if you love what you are doing then you inwardly get the stamina to push on. As a sports lover and part time coach who engages many young men; I am drawn to these values, many of which we try to impart on children. As youth coaches, there is only much we can do to these kids, but the decision to be great solely lies within them.

Do you binge-watch on Netflix and play video games? What do you do when all your friends are out there partying and socializing? Do you join them or do you retire to your passion and spend hours on end perfecting it? How many even have the audacity to step into a gym and increase their physical fitness as athletes? How many take care of their nutrition knowing well that their body is their asset and proper care added to plenty of rest will enable them perform at peak? These are the tough choices that Kobe embraced.

Society today has really changed; we give too many excuses on why we don’t pursue our dreams. We blame others for our own misfortunes; we blame our parents, leaders and teachers. Nobody wants to look at him or herself and take responsibility. Kobe never played the victim card, watching numerous clips on his training; listening to the various coaches he worked under. It is clear that Kobe had a single-minded focus, and that was to be the best basketballer ever of his generation. And, yes he achieved that.

Many of us are attracted to success but few have the stamina to do what it takes. Every athlete talks of being the next Eliud Kipchoge, LeBron James, Ronaldo or Messi but few are ready to isolate and work on themselves to be great. This is where Kobe set himself apart, he didn’t just recite mantras or philosophies, he practiced them. Is the next generation of athletes ready to take personal sacrifice, isolate themselves from fads and pursue success with a single-minded focus?

As coaches and teachers, are we contributing to the success or downfall of future sportsmen? It breaks my heart when school children that put in minimal effort and come in last at sports events are awarded participation medals. Aren’t we being dishonest to these angels? The world out here is cruel and competitive, nobody hands you anything that you have not won.

I never knew or met Kobe personally, but his exemplary life as a sportsman was an inspiration. He was not a perfect human as can be identified by the cases of infidelity he faced and the rift with his parents that persisted to his grave. Yet, we saw him mature into a man, accept his past failings and transform into a family man who many admired. This teaches us that we will have our shortcomings but if we work on changing for the better then the transformation will be great and will also serve as an inspiration to others.

The greatest misfortune of our humanity is that we celebrate people more when they die. Yet, looking at the outpouring of tributes world over after his demise one can only but acknowledge what an impact he had on many lives. Though gone too soon, his legacy lives on, a legacy of faith and belief in one’s abilities, a determination to pursue one’s goals despite the insurmountable odds.

As the Covid-19 virus shakes the foundations we have built, we can draw inspiration from Kobe’s life and maintain focus to turn around our fortunes.

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