I live in Los Angeles and the city is still coming to grips with the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 7 others in a helicopter crash. Like most humans, he left a complicated legacy. His included: Championship basketball player, accused rapist, entrepreneur, a selfish driven competitor, devoted father, philanthropist, Academy Award winner, and mentor. LA is a city of rediscovering and remaking yourself, and we gave Kobe that opportunity.
On the basketball court, he was more like Michael Jordan (his idol), but in his brief second act, Magic Johnson comes to mind. Kobe knew that during his basketball career he could learn things that would help him for the next 40 years of his life and he prepared for that as he would for any opponent—with relentless determination. In this forum, I want to talk about how he mentored others.
Kobe’s passion was his craft. He wanted to dominate each opponent and play the game better than anyone. This approach did not lend itself to friendship on the court, or sometimes even in his own locker room. But, in the latter stage of his career and after he retired, Kobe wanted other talented players to try to achieve what he did. His last public tweet was congratulating another player eclipsing him on the all-time scoring list.
He was particularly interested in reaching out to players (male and female, college and professional, basketball and other sports) who had suffered career threatening injuries. He would recommend doctors, talk about his approach to rehabbing, and instill in them the confidence that they could recover and succeed. You can go online and read the testimonials from all kinds of people he directly impacted in this way. He wanted the best players to love basketball as much as he did so they could make the game better.
Kobe’s second act shows us that great mentorship is more than providing knowledge and advice. Great mentors excite our passion and challenge us to be the best we can be. We can look for those who do that for us. And, like Kobe would want, we can be the ones who lights the fire for others.