On Jan. 26, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant passed away suddenly in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others. Within minutes of confirming reports, the entire world, from basketball fans to politicians to musicians, mourned the loss of one of the most influential and inspirational athletes of the 21st century.
A five-time champion, 18-time All-Star and 2008 NBA MVP, Kobe was known for his mamba mentality, a mojo of unrelenting hunger to win and the desire to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal. Dying at 41, he demonstrated that even legends can leave us unexpectedly and reminded us that, since any day could be our last, we must always strive to make the most of our lives.
Mixed between the honorary 24-second violations, impromptu mass memorials and tweets of disbelief were replays and reminders everywhere of just why Kobe held such a special place in our hearts. His impossible work ethic, his clutch gene and his passion for the game in all aspects made us appreciate basketball that much more. Building a legendary resume in his two-decade career, he showed everyone that a great attitude and unrelenting drive can take you far in life.
Before attaining stardom, Kobe built inroads into far-flung communities like one in the Philippines, where a court named in his honor was dedicated just hours before his passing. He never waited to use his abilities to change lives and to better himself. He lived his life with his foot on the gas. After his death, every NBA superstar — from Europeans like Luka Doncic to rivals like LeBron James — remarked on just what an influence he had on them, showing them what was humanly possible if they had enough hunger and grit.
The sheer shock at his sudden passing, just a day after congratulating James on passing him on the all-time scoring list, should serve as a reminder of a deeper truth about life. We are all just one heartbeat away from being a memory. Many of us assume we will have more time to build our lives and legacies. Once we get into college, start a family or settle in a new city, we assume we have time to start making the most of our lives. For some people, that time will never come.
Kobe showed us that you have to exemplify the mamba mentality day in and day out in case your life is cut unexpectedly short. There’s never a day when you can’t work toward making the world a better and happier place. Kobe demonstrated that attitude by being as equally positive and inspirational in the basketball world after his retirement as he was before. He seamlessly rechanneled his passion for basketball toward philanthropic efforts. Kobe championed women’s basketball, worked out with current players and broke down the game in detail to those seeking his undying thirst for achievement, it’s no wonder the world came to a standstill when the former player was suddenly gone. Part of the mourning is knowing just how much he had left to give to the game and to the world.
Both Kobe’s sudden death and the reaction to it should serve as sobering reminders that life is a privilege that can be revoked at any time, and when that day comes, it’s in our hands to decide how we’re remembered. Think about the stories your friends and family would share to memorialize your life and the legacy you’ll leave behind.
There’s no doubt that Kobe exemplified a life well lived, even if his life was cut short. It’s hard to think of a better way to exemplify the mamba mentality than ensuring the world will show its respect no matter when your time is up. Kobe strove every second of every day to make himself and the world around him better, and he showed us we should aspire to do the same.
John Crawford is a junior in the McDonough School of Business.