So, here we go another write-up about a basketball player from someone who has never met the man. Here we go with another person attempting to show a reason or purpose for the overwhelming response to the death, while tragic, of a celebrity. Here we go with someone saying the same things that a million other people have said already to the point of insanity. Here we go with another passage from an unknown "writer" trying to make a name for himself. Here we go...again.
It's easy to dismiss what people think, feel and believe in our society today. It is easy to toss out judgement and opinion like candy at grandma's house during the summer. It is easy to not understand why one person can impact so many while another person doing something much more important cannot. It is easy to express our frustrations with a world whose moral compass, ideals, and simple humanity are not only fractured but broken at times. It is easy to do. Especially at times like this with such a polarizing figure. It's easy to say "why now?" as we should move on and finally let him (his daughter and the rest of the victims) rest. It's easy but, like I said, here we go again.
I'm not writing this to praise a basketball player. I'm not writing this to praise a 5-time NBA Champion and one of the greatest to ever play his chosen sport. I'm not writing this to praise an business man or mentor or even, as some would like to yell, a rapist. I'm not writing because I think my voice will rise out of the millions and millions and land in front of the eyes of his wife who not only buried a husband but also buried one of her children. I'm not writing it for any of that, and yet I am writing for all of it and more. Finally, here we go (again).
For those who don't know I am a Los Angeles native. I was born and raised a Lakers fan, Dodgers fan, Raiders fan and eventually become a Kings fan too. As a youngster sports wasn't my big thing but I did love my teams. But this isn't about my youthful connection to the city of Angels. This is about my life after LA when an 18 year old kid went off to the Air Force and traveled the world. This is about staying up late at night in foreign countries watching the Armed Forces Network (AFN) just to see my boys (teams) play even though it would leave me with only a few hours of sleep. This is about being in war zones and listening to military members cheer on their team, mock other teams, get into heated arguments over this player or that player and just enjoy a glimpse of home. This is about one man's drive to connect a simple kid from LA to home and the greatness he was accustomed to seeing in a franchise known for greatness. This is about loud cheers watching the comeback of Kobe/Shaq and the crew against an amazing Portland Trailblazer team in 2001 on their way to building a 3-peat. It's about the pain that kid (me) feels knowing that a maestro, whose musicality (on the court) played such a masterpiece that once it stopped the kid, would never hear music the same again. This is about remembering what that kid, who would become the man I am today, learned from a cocky 18 year old who dared to tell the world he would be greater than arguably Greatest of All Time in MJ. That is what this is about and that is why I am writing this blog.
Today, in LA, the memorial service was held for Kobe and his little basketball lady mamba daughter Gianna. Today I sat and let the emotions run as I watched Vanessa, MJ, Shaq and others share what so many of us felt over the last 20 plus years that the man gave us everything he had in pursuit of his dreams. Memories of talking to my nephews about Kobe's work ethic and why I respected the man over every other athlete I've ever seen play came back. I sat and watched and something weird happened.... I smiled. I smiled because Kobe, a man I never met, has been a positive impact on my life since he came into the league. His legendary work and attention to detail shaped on many levels how I deal with people on a day to day basis. I smile because I am grateful to really have been able to appreciate the genius of man obsessed with being better every day. I smile because I sat, more times than not, in awe of a man who made people both love and hate him at every turn and seemingly didn't care one way or another because he was chasing the guy in the mirror. We should all be so lucky to see our true competition like he did. Some of us are lucky to have learned it in our own way.
When he died I thought about why it mattered to me so much. I wondered why this particular celebrity mattered at all especially after seeing so many (military) flag draped coffins leave the war zones. Why would I be on the verge of tears for this man even if he helped bring 5 Championships to my beloved team? Because he mentored me to be who I have become today. How? Because thanks to him I learned to chase my only competition.... me. I learned that no matter what people say against me or doubt me I am my competition and I must get better. More importantly, I also must share what I learn with the younger people following. I must leave it all out there and share it because that is what I owe myself. Yes, this guy I never met showed me year in and year out that if I want to be great I better be willing to challenge what greatness is and what greatness was before me.
I'm not the Black Mamba. I am more. I am Sean. I am a father. I am an author. I am a veteran. I am a speaker. I am a motivator. I am more than anyone said I would be... and I am not done. I am affected by this death because, with Kobe passing, I know I have work to do. You can't teach the "Mamba Mentality" but you can teach people who they need to beat day in and day out. Today, I close the door on one of the greatest to every play. Tomorrow, I step out and I become, once again, a newer, better me. Thank you, Kobe.
I'll end with this: life is short. We do not know what will happen in the next moment. It doesn't matter if people hate you, people love you, people support you, or they don't because in the end you have to live with you. So, get out and dare to take the shot no one says you should take. Write the book you think no one will read. Sing the song in the key no one else thinks is right. Run the race no one believes you'll finish. Do the things that scares you. Be the person you dream of being deep down in the very depths of your fantasy, and go for it. More importantly, be the kind of person you would want your children to be towards others, and then be better than that. I don't have all the answers in life, but I know Kobe Bryant impacted the world in a way I couldn't dream of touching... until now. It's time to be better than #girldad had become and impact the world myself. I can't imagine Kobe wanting anything less of people he inspired. Just like the Mamba....... Sean Out! #LETME