When we’re young, we rarely ever comprehend that this life can be taken away at any moment, that is, until someone is taken too soon and reality comes around to slap us in the face. It’s easy to feel like we have so much life ahead of us, so much so that sometimes, we take it for granted instead of sitting back, breathing, and realizing how important the time we have been given is. I wish more people my age would realize how precious their lives really are instead of comparing themselves to their friends’ lives and a clouded representation of what life seems to be like as told by Instagram. I’m guilty of it too.
If you had to pick one athlete who embodies living life to its fullest, it would be Kobe Bryant. During his playing career, he would find himself in countless situations during big games – a losing streak, or shooting free throws with a torn Achilles – where the feeling of helplessness creeps in. He always found a way to overcome the obstacles in front of him. A couple that come to mind immediately:
The 2008 Western Conference Finals Game 1 against the Spurs.
The 2000 NBA Finals – Game 4 after Shaq fouls out. Many forget at that point in his career everyone wouldn’t stop talking about how Kobe shrunk in the playoff spotlight. That conversation did a complete 180 on that day and set the tone for the rest of his career.
“Kobe Bryant’s Muse” a doc created during his rehab from his Achilles Injury about mastering your craft.
Kobe was never my favorite player and never made me exhibit the same emotions the way an Allen Iverson crossover step-back jumper or LeBron James highlight dunk made me feel. Then why did I feel like I had to immediately call my friends when the news broke? I realized, it was because even though he wasn’t my favorite player there were so many memories I associated good and bad with him that I can immediately pin-point where I was at that exact time. My first memory of Kobe was different. I remember sitting in the stands when Lower Merion played North Penn a couple years back after Kobe graduated and was drafted into the NBA. North Penn beat up on Lower Merion that night and I remember North Penn’s student section chanting, “You need Kobe! You need Kobe!” At the time I was about six and my knowledge of basketball history was zero. But I can hear that chant like it was yesterday. “Kobe”. The name just stuck with you. I didn’t know two years later he would rip my heart out in the 2001 NBA Finals against AI and the Sixers. I hated Kobe after that and when I found out he went to high school 20 minutes down the road I couldn’t fathom why someone who grew up in the area would beat his hometown team in the fashion they did.
That hate grew into respect which I know was a feeling a lot of people grew to possess when thinking about Kobe, especially when we were getting to the tail end of his career.
I had my first brush with death and the thought of what invincibility meant a year ago. I don’t talk about it a lot for whatever reason. I’d been lucky the first 26 years of my life, I hadn’t had more than one brush with death up to that point. I lost my dad this time last year. One of the first memories that came back to me was that Lower Merion game when I was six sitting in those stands with him. Growing up we’d go a ton of high school basketball games. Classic games like Chester vs Hatboro Horsham when Pat & Matt Carroll would go up against Jameer Nelson. Those were my all time favorites because the crowd was always enormous and the loudest I’ve ever heard to this day. When the cheerleaders do the ‘Chester Train’ you are in for the ride of your life!
I’m weird about condolences, probably because I’m Irish and we don’t typically do well with feelings. That’s why when a public figure passes away I never post an RIP Instagram story or tweet on social because, though the sentiment is nice, the condolences feel empty and lumped together with thousands or even this case millions of condolences already spoken. It’s like posting a happy birthday to your grandmother on IG knowing she’ll never see it because she couldn’t decipher Instagram from a typewriter and the likes are just too good to pass up. Morbid, I know. But I prefer to sit around and talk about the memories you have with the person, watch old highlights or video from when they were alive, and laugh about the times you had with them. I’m lucky that I have those memories with my dad that Kobe was inadvertently apart of. The Lower Merion game, watching Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals when the Sixers won and we thought they actually had a chance against this juggernaut Lakers team, or going to Michael Jordan’s last game ever. MJ felt like this ghost Kobe was always chasing to defeat that kept driving him to be the best he could be. My dad might be gone, but I’m lucky that their is video I can still pull up to hear his voice when I want to or see his friends and reminisce on the memories they have of him or unlock the countless memories I have that consistently orbit around basketball. My dad is invincible because his memory will never be overcome or defeated and lives through myself and my sister.
This was the worst day in NBA history. But Kobe will forever remain invincible.
Invincibility is the quality of being too powerful to be defeated or overcome. No matter what happened yesterday, Kobe Bryant is invincible. He will forever be invincible, Gigi as well. Because as long as you carry on someone’s legacy and memory in any way, shape, or form, that individual is too powerful to be defeated or overcome. You cannot tell the story of the NBA without telling the career Kobe had. How he was apart of the last NBA Championship 3-peat. How he overcame Shaq’s shadow to win back-to-back championships. And how he reinvented his game a la MJ late in his career to prolong it. Kobe and Gigi’s memory, as well as the other 7 souls on board yesterday, will forever be shared long after the shock of this tragedy subsides and we continue on with life. As long as one person continues to share memories and stories of them, they will never be overcome or defeated. They will forever be invincible.
Live your life so that when it’s your time people can look back and share memories of you, so you too, remain invincible.