Diplomatic Notes

Remembering Kobe Bryant

I usually cover a wide range of issues – faith, politics, business and occasionally sports. This column today is about an iconic life that billions worldwide interfaced with in one way or another. In my case, as a former basketball player, Kobe Bryant was like family. I never met him personally but like many in The Bahamas, as a former Lakers fan, he was family. When I say “former”, some would ask, “What happened? Why did you stop being a fan of the Lakers?” I stopped being a “fanatic” about all sports and became more of an observer, still enjoying games but not getting caught up in the sports world to the point of obsessions. I still loved watching Kobe as an observer.

I remember particularly the Shaq and Kobe era when I thought the young Kobe was too selfish, but boy could he still ball. His degree of difficulty on shots while being doubled-teamed, his competitive spirit amazed us all through the “threepeat”; 24 or 8, it did not matter which number he wore, he was blessed by God with a unique talent and he served his talent to the world with everything he had. Kobe and the Lakers were synonymous with near perfection in sport. I was inspired by a man pursuing his purpose, maximizing his potential and fulfilling his destiny.

Beyond basketball, there were many other lessons Kobe left us. He taught us that heroes are human. No matter how great you are in sport or gift, no one escapes the reality that we are all very fallible human beings. He was a superstar and superstars are often worshipped and near perfection is an expectation that we have of them on and off the court. Many were disappointed when allegations of sexual assault surfaced and unfortunately some even this week attempted to smear his name and diminish his status because of a mistake or sin he was involved in. He was never convicted, he apologized for his error in judgement and moved on with his life, becoming what appeared to me to be a great father and family man to his wife and four daughters. So many stories emerged of his dedication to family and maturing as a person, yet many still focused on this one incident, seemingly never allowing for forgiveness or redemption.

Many who knew Kobe said early in his basketball career he was brash, selfish, over-competitive and not a good person to be around. He was obsessed with sports and winning. He feuded famously with Shaq for years, staining his legacy to some extent. The same people also talked about how he matured and became a better person. He called Shaq’s son the day of his crash just to check on him. Is this not the same journey all of us are on? We begin as “lost” individuals and life gives us lessons that we can use to become better or bitter. Kobe became better.

Along the way, there were memories that we cherish, and I know I certainly cherish. I remember those last-second shots, the killer instincts, the championships. It was almost like The Bahamas was winning. The Bahamas has had Laker connections forever. First through Mychal Thompson who played with the “Showtime” Lakers and then Rick Fox who played with Kobe during the first championship “threepeat” era. Those were the days – five rings, 81 points, the Black Mamba stinging again.

Kobe furthered the Bahamian connection by mentoring Buddy Hield, taking him under his wings during his last year of college and bringing him to his camp in L.A. (Los Angeles) for “Mamba” training. I watched in amazement a few nights ago as Buddy scored 42 points on 24 shots (Kobe’s number front and back) and had five rebounds and three assists (totaling eight – Kobe’s first jersey number). Buddy indicated he even wears the number 24 himself because of Kobe. Kobe was one of us, forever connected to The Bahamas.

I told my wife and children the day of the crash it was like I lost a family member. I didn’t cry – but I felt like crying. The crash took me back to November 14, 2014 with Dr. Myles Munroe; there were nine people on board then and nine with Kobe. Weather played a role then and weather played a role this time. Some of the same thoughts came into my mind: gone too soon but great memories, good times and lessons remain in my heart. Life on earth may seem predictable, it may seem like there is certainty, but we are reminded that no man knows the day nor the hour or even the minute when life will be no more. This means that we have to make every day count, maximize every moment, live like there is no tomorrow. Consider that there is life here and then there is eternity. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?

I just found out yesterday that Kobe regularly went to church. Before he got on the helicopter, it is said that he took his daughter to church. This was incredible for me because I never heard him talk about God or faith, and didn’t think such things were important to him. I am happy that he paused to consider his life and realized that there are some things greater than basketball and he did not have all the answers within himself. I miss Kobe already, but I am grateful that he graced the planet. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the inspiration. Thanks for the lessons about life and maturity – 24 and 8 live forever in our hearts.

• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to pastordaveburrows@hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.

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