Dedication. It is something that everyone looks for, but is hard to find. We tell our employers, our teachers, our peers that we are “dedicated, hardworking” people, but in reality, there aren’t many people who are truly dedicated to something. True dedication is rare, but when you do find it, you have found something special. On January 26, a terrible helicopter crash in Calabasas, California took nine lives. One of those individuals was Kobe Bryant, alongside his daughter, Gianna.
With the rise of the Internet in the early 2000’s came the rise of pop culture. As the Internet grew, so too did celebrity fame. Even though it is a fact that not everyone plays basketball, or even likes basketball, there are a select few players who have reached the elite level at which everyone knows their name. Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Magic Johnson are a few of them. Kobe Bryant was on this level as well. In fact, he may have surpassed them, due to the enduring trend of people invoking his name when making a tough shot.
He was the first player to be drafted straight out of high school, setting precedent for others great players like Tracy McGrady and Lebron James after him. His Lakers team with Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal was the first to make it to three NBA finals in a row and go three for zero in the new millenium. He scored 81 points against the Raptors in 2006, becoming second on the all time list for most points in a game. And in the final game of his career at the age of 37, he scored 60 points, becoming the oldest player to ever score at such a proficient mark.
Bryant’s career was filled with legendary moments – moments that shaped basketball as we know it today. However, behind the bright lights of the NBA and the Laker franchise, Kobe Bryant’s life was complex. He had lows in his career as well, especially in 2003 when an allegation of rape was brought against him.
Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel receptionist in his room, after she had taken him for a tour of the premises. Legal proceedings started in 2003 and continued all the way into 2004, when the accuser refused to testify and Bryant was ultimately proven innocent in 2005. When the case was brought against him, he was already married to Vanessa, and public opinion of him turned for the worse in an instant. He was no longer the rising basketball phenom; instead, he was the African-American professional athlete, accused of a sex crime and disloyalty to his family.
The story seems familiar up to this point. After falling out of favour with the public, the athlete never gets back to where they were, fading into obscurity, only remembered for a charge of sexual assault. However, from the moment he first stepped onto the court, Kobe Bryant was anything but familiar. Despite having all the talent and athletic gifts to be a superstar, Kobe Bryant’s defining quality was never his prowess with a basketball. It was his true, unadulterated dedication to everything in his life.
When the case went public, Bryant did not shirk from the possibility that his career could be over. Instead, he got up on the podium with his wife Vanessa, and pleaded innocent to the charge of assault. He humbled himself, issuing a public apology at a press conference, with her at his side. While this moment will remain a darker spot in his career, he spent the next decade and a half advocating women’s rights and becoming an ally of the WNBA and women everywhere. And like this clip would imply, Kobe Bryant also dedicated himself to being a good father, especially to his daughter Gianna who was following in his footsteps.
Kobe Bryant was dedicated to the Los Angeles Lakers. What many people do not know is that Bryant almost left the team, demanding a trade after a string of disappointing seasons following the departure of his running mate, Shaq. In fact, he had a one-on-one interview with O’Neal on TNT where he revealed the frustrations he had with the franchise throughout his career. However, he stayed with the team that drafted him because of his love for the people of L.A, and went on to win back-to-back championships in the purple-and-gold uniform, one more time.
Lastly, Kobe Bryant was dedicated to basketball. No matter which player you asked, old or young, no one could deny Bryant’s fire and passion for the game. He was the first person at the gym everyday, and the last person to leave. He played every game like it was his last, devoting every ounce of his being to the single idea of winning. His dedication to the sport became so renowned that his colleagues and fans started calling it the “Mamba Mentality,” and he continued to tell people about the importance of loving what you do.
The world is reeling after the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. With this time of mourning, also comes a time of reflection on his life and career. It was a career rich with amazing moments and spectacular athleticism, but also one punctuated by troubling allegations. The solution is simply to remember all of it, both the allegations of sexual assault and the remarkable life that surrounded them. What I will remember most is his dedication. Hopefully that alone can be an lesson for the rest of us.