Kobe Bryant’s death inspires us to not only appreciate every moment, but to learn from the life he led off the court.
I grew up a Lakers fan, watching Magic and Kareem win championships, but Kobe was one of us. So when Magic retired in 1996 and Kobe started playing, it was like a passing of the guard to my generation.
When I returned to LA after graduating college in 2000, the Lakers were in their first NBA finals since 1988. I went to the Staples Center to watch the Lakers win their first championship under Kobe and Shaq that year.
I was there for the next two years when they completed their three-peat championships — the last team to do so in the NBA. Kobe’s #8 jersey is the only one I’ve ever owned because it felt like I was supporting a friend, not a role model.
That’s why I paid such close attention to what Kobe did off the court.
“I love love, love storytelling. I love framing stories that inspire. I love educating in a very creative way. I love putting pieces of the puzzle together.”
This is my attempt of putting a few puzzle pieces together after Kobe Bryant’s death, to see what made him great, but also what can make us all great. What greater legacy could one leave than to inspire us to be our best.
Kobe Bryant Spoke English, Italian, and Spanish
Kobe’s family moved to Italy when he was six. Since soccer was more popular than basketball, he picked up Italian to make friends.
To hear him speak Italian in an Adidas commercial that aired in the US, caught me off guard. Turns out, Kobe kept up his Italian and was even known to do interviews in Italian and Spanish. He wasn’t flexing those languages for media attention.
He was a skilled polyglot who used foreign languages to forge relationships with teammates. Communication helped him bring diverse people together into his world.
Kobe taught me that foreign languages, even at basic fluency, can form deep relationships. That’s why I speak English, Spanish, Italian, and Hindi and have been successful in conducting business in the US, Costa Rica, and India (Italy, I’m still making my way there!).
English may be the universal language, but never forget that foreign tongues enrich our humanity.
Kobe Bryant’s Death Inspired Lesson #1: Break language barriers to connect with more people.
Kobe Bryant Had a Record Deal
While in high school, Kobe was part of a rap group and signed a deal with Sony. He was the number one high school player, going pro, and still making music! He also took Brandy to his senior prom, which is all kinds of awesome.
He recorded verses on songs for Bryan McKnight and his teammate Shaq. At a point, he released a single called “K.O.B.E.” with Tyra Banks on the hook.
Kobe’s music career never didn’t gain traction like ballin’, but that’s not the point. Music provided Kobe with a creative outlet to boost his athletics.
“I would use music to get me into that emotional space. So music was there for me from day one to actually help the performance and get me in that zone.”
Kobe taught me that music can and always will be a part of me. When I retired from professional DJ’ing, I wasn’t sure if music would be in my life again, aside from listening. So when the inspiration came to me to write and produce an album, I went after it.
Kobe Bryant’s Death Inspired Lesson #2: Music can fuel your life.
Kobe Bryant is a #1 Best Selling Author
As Kobe entered retirement, he decided to share his experience in a book. The Mamba Mentality: How I Play mission is to teach young players, hardcore fans, and devoted students how to play, “The right way.” The book is a New York Times #1 Best Seller and a brilliant look into the steps he took to excel.
Kobe showed us how his mind works and shared his expertise with the world. He felt it was so important to teach, that he also put together the Mamba Academy. He showed me that when you have succeeded in something, it’s your duty to share it with others.
When I wrote Bling, I knew it was the right thing to do because I excelled at something others desired. Writing takes a great deal of effort and creativity. Watching Kobe synthesize his experiences into a book made me a big believer in writing my own.
Kobe Bryant’s Death Inspired Lesson #3: Tell your story.
Kobe Bryant Won an Academy Award
Kobe loved storytelling.
He started retirement with a heartfelt poem called “Dear Basketball” on The Player’s Tribune. He took the creativity a step further and transformed prose into an animated film. He assembled a brilliant team to create the animation and score the music with John Williams.
Later in 2017, he won an Academy Award for “Dear Basketball.” If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s just a few minutes long and well worth the watch.
Kobe showed me the power of transforming thoughts onto paper. To create and repurpose content that people will remember for a lifetime.
This passion fuels my team at Flow. We’re inspired to create impactful content for athletes, CEOs, executives, and businesses with purpose.
Kobe Bryant’s Death Inspired Lesson #4: Repurpose your content to expand your reach.
Kobe Bryant Turned A $6 Million Investment into $200 Million
It’s fun to see how the next step in a superstar’s career often becomes investing.
When Magic Johnson retired, he made strategic investments in 24 Hour Fitness, Starbucks, movie theaters, and more to bring prosperity to underserved communities. I remember seeing the Magic Johnson 24 Hour Fitness go up in Carson, CA, right by my best friend’s house. Soon, a Starbucks sprung up, and overnight the city began to change.
Kobe silently invested on the side for five years with a partner named Jeff Stibel. Kobe made a $6 million investment for 10% of a sports drink called Bodyarmor. Four years later, Coke purchased the label, turning Kobe’s investment into $200 million.
After retirement, Kobe and Stibel raised $100 million for a venture capital fund to invest in media and technology companies. As of 2019, the firm has $2 billion under management.
It’s comforting when Kobe said,
“It’s finding that winning company as an investor. Because I always expected to hit a game-winning shot growing up.”
As the co-founder of a wealth management firm that grew to manage over $100 million in assets, I can relate. Finding a winning company means finding winning people. It’s comparable to taking a game-winning shot.
Kobe Bryant’s Death Inspired Lesson #5: Invest in others.
Kobe Bryant’s Philanthropy Extended to China
By the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kobe was already a Laker legend. As a three-time champion and league MVP, he won the gold medal in China. The podium opened up his opportunity to build a bridge with the country.
Kobe started the Kobe Bryant China Fund. The purpose? To fund education, sports, and culture programs for Chinese and American youth. After establishing popularity in China, he returned almost every year. His #24 Lakers jersey is top-selling, even over China’s own Yao Ming.
Kobe was also an ambassador for a US after-school program called After-School All-Stars. He helped kids at home, but his backyard didn’t limit him. The world was his playground.
Kobe showed me that we can help people anywhere. We’re not limited by what’s closest or most accessible. We can help others, and in doing so, we’re creating new bridges and rebuilding old ones.
The worlds I opened by creating the nation’s first content marketing apprenticeship leading non-profits like Mind’s Matter are unimaginable.
Kobe Bryant’s Death Inspired Lesson #6: Give beyond borders.
Kobe Bryant Was an Involved Father
Kobe’s death shocked me. Later, my shock turned to tears.
I cried my eyes out because I put myself in his shoes, imagining the final moments with his daughter, GiGi. Both were on their way to Mamba Sports Academy, a basketball camp and fitness center Kobe owned.
Kobe loved his daughters. He involved himself in their growth. One of the world’s greatest basketball stars coaching his daughters with other kids.
As a father, I have tremendous respect for his commitment to his family.
I also coached both my kids in soccer for the past four years for both the Fall and Spring seasons. Prior, I coached my twin cousins in soccer for seven years. And while I was in college, coached underprivileged elementary school kids for four years.
I wasn’t a father to those athletes, but I know so many of them looked up to me as a big bro or dad. I committed to their growth until they moved on to high school, or I left college. Today, I’ll coach my kids till it’s their turn to go to high school.
Kobe Bryant’s Death Inspired Lesson #7: Our greatest achievement is helping our kids soar.
Kobe Bryant was a Flawed, but Loving Husband
Kobe met his wife Vanessa while she was working as a backup dancer on Tha Eastsidaz music video “G’d Up.” They married when Kobe was 23.
For the first two years of their marriage, Kobe’s parents stopped talking to him. They didn’t approve of his marriage or that he eloped. His parents only reconciled with Kobe after meeting their first grandbaby.
Imagine being a young NBA star, getting married, and sticking it out when your parents stopped talking to you. Kobe didn’t have a strained relationship before. In fact, his parent’s co-signed his agreement when he got drafted because he was underage at 17.
Unfortunately, Kobe cheated on his wife a couple of years later. With sexual assault accusations, he settled, knowing that he committed adultery.
Despite that, Vanessa stayed with him. It’s easy to say, “Of course she did,” but I’m sure it was a difficult decision. They stayed together until filing for divorce in 2011. But the couple resolved their issues and called it off a month later.
Vanessa found it in her heart to forgive Kobe, so who am I to judge?
Did he do something wrong? Yes.
Did he change? We don’t know.
But that’s between him and Vanessa, not us his fans.
No matter, Kobe showed me that marriage is tough, but it’s worth changing yourself to be with the person you love. My song “Change for You” is a mantra for all the lovers out there, willing to change themselves, for the better.
Kobe Bryant’s Death Inspired Lesson #8: Changing for your soul mate is true love.
Kobe, Thank You for the Memories
Kobe Bryant’s death was horrific, but his life was legendary.
I don’t particularly care about living life to build a legacy. I believe that’s our ego seeking adoration after death.
But now that Kobe Bryant’s death is upon us, it’s clear that his actions in life created a legacy worth learning from.
The “Mamba Mentality” is more than a work ethic. It’s a mindset of a loving, compassionate, and giving human.