Yesterday morning, I was in the kitchen doing my weekly food prep and sending pictures of my homemade hummus to my daughter Madison. Instead of telling me how delicious it looked, she responded with a text that changed the course of Los Angeles history. "Kobe died."
Madison grew up going to Laker Games. Her father has had season seats so long that he gets behind the scenes gifts from the franchise, including "meet and greets" with players. I was married to him for thirteen years and went to games two to three times a week during my entire pregnancy with her. Some of her first sounds were me, chanting "Kobe! Kobe!"
As a veterinary surgeon, my ex did surgery on Kobe and Vanessa's dog. Madison's family connection to Kobe was, like many Angelinos, a personal one. So when her husband told her that there had been a helicopter crash near where he was that morning, and that Kobe was among those killed on board, we were stunned. It hadn't even made the news yet.
In the past 24 hours, I've been thinking about Kobe and why so many people are devastated by his death. After all, he was just a basketball player. He didn't cure cancer or solve the conflict in the Middle East. He put a ball through a hoop, a lot of times, and did it really, really well.
So, what's the deal? What made him so special?
If you ask the "man on the street," you'll get a few answers.
"He was more talented than just about anyone else to ever play the sport," some will say.
"He worked harder than anyone else on the team. No one wanted it more than Kobe."
"He was a team player. He had a mindset of 'We Before Me.'"
Was that really it? Is that why we all felt like we knew him?
No. Talent is not enough. We all know people who are incredibly talented and yet they don't experience the level of success Kobe did.
It's also not about hard work. Just ask the man who works three jobs just to put food on the table.
Was it the team player mindset? Not specifically. Some of our greatest heroes had "not a team player" written on their report cards.
Kobe Bryant was someone we looked up to because he represented something that exists inside of each one of us.
He found that intersection between talent, passion, and good old fashioned hard work. He found the thing he was born to do, that he loved doing, and then he worked his ass off.
He wasn't "lucky." He didn't "win the genetic lottery." He listened to his heart, believed in himself, and worked to be the best version of himself he could be. That meant working with people who could challenge him, teach him, and he never ever stopped learning and improving.
You may not rise to the level of fame and wealth that Kobe did. But you do have the power to find that perfect intersection of talent, passion, and hard work.
What are you good at? What do you love doing? Find that thing, and then work harder and smarter than anyone you know. Ask for help. Find a coach, a mentor, a role model. And never EVER stop learning and improving.
That is the #mambamentality