Updated: Feb 26, 2020
I’ve been reading the words of Karl Lagerfeld over the last few days and I have been loving so much of his take on style. While Karl merits an article completely dedicated to him and him alone, this is not the moment he deserves. Although I plan out my articles each week in advance, I am also a purveyor of culture, and sometimes there are moments that shake the world to its core, making it a disservice to all of us to ignore it.
The death of Kobe Bryant rocked the world on the morning of January 26th, 2020. I first heard the news from my sister, Maite, and I thought it was a hoax. “No way, not KOBE,” I thought to myself. I checked around, but nothing had been reported yet. I responded, “this must be a hoax,” but then my mom said, “No, it’s been confirmed.”
I went online again and there it was, headlines stating:
“Kobe Bryant, 41, killed in helicopter crash.”
I was in shock. I was at a total loss for words, something that doesn’t happen to me often. I found it challenging to fathom the news. Kobe Bryant, THE Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba, had passed away. Of course, I did not know him, but his resilience and mental toughness served as huge inspiration for me through my college years, inspiration that would end up serving me well later into my adulthood.
Here in the Wardrobe, we focus on the arts and the creators who devote their lives to the pursuit, so you may find yourself asking why the focus today is on an athlete. While Kobe Bryant was a basketball legend, he was also an intellectual and a creator who had an eloquence that almost rivaled his ambition. After his retirement from basketball, he was dedicating his time to his production company, Granity Studios. The mission of the studio was to tell inspirational children’s stories by using sports as the platform.
Using sports as his platform came naturally to Kobe, but he wanted to dig deeper into the lessons that sports taught him. From sacrifice to failure to resilience, he wanted a way to pass these lessons on to the next generation, and as all of us who enter the Wardrobe have come to discover, the arts provide a powerful and transcendent vehicle for delivering messages.
Granity Studios oversaw the publication of five books, two of which were part of a series called The Wizenard Series. Kobe came up with the idea, but understood the need for a gifted writer to truly get the message across and immerse young readers into his world, so he recruited Wesley King to be the writer for the project. Kobe also went on to recruit Ivy Claire for another project, a more fantasy-based book called Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof, which went on to become a New York Times bestseller, and an inspiring tale of fighting for what you want, even when all the odds are against you.
Apart from his literary creations, Kobe was also diving into the visual arts. In what can be argued as his greatest creative accomplishment, Kobe won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for a film titled Dear Basketball. This film was based on a letter he wrote to the Player’s Tribune upon his retirement from the NBA. In his heartfelt letter that resounds like a child’s echo, he writes:
“My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time say goodbye.”
Shortly before his death, Kobe was working with literary titan, Paulo Coelho, on a book whose contents may now never be known. Amongst all the writers and creators that had the privilege of working with Kobe, there is one common thread that they all seem to share, and it is the depth of emotion that they felt in his presence.
Kobe was obviously celebrated for his physical prowess, but it was his mamba mentality, his devout spirituality, his thirst for learning, and his fascination with the arts that brought him great success. He bonded with fellow writers and producers over Star Wars and Beethoven. He spoke three languages, and he was often shown giving press conferences in Spanish and Italian.
The man behind the legend was multi-faceted. He felt emotions in a profound manner and made it his mission after retirement to teach the youth of the world how to channel those emotions in a way that could help them reach their goals.
Looking back at the moment when I first heard the news of Kobe’s passing, I pick up on the fact that I immediately assumed it was a hoax. In my mind, I thought there was no way that this could have happened to a living legend. Too often, we aggrandize human beings because of their extraordinary abilities and we forget the person behind the icon.
Kobe Bryant, with all of his Olympic gold medals, national titles, publications, trophies, awards, and accolades to his name, was just a man with a family. He was a man with a wife and four daughters, working hard to support his family, and trying his best to use the gifts that he was blessed with.
Somewhere out there is a wife who kissed her husband goodbye, who wished her daughter good luck, and who expected to see them later that night for dinner. Somewhere out there, a wife mourns the loss of her husband, and a mother mourns the excruciating loss of her child. Somewhere out there, three girls have lost their daddy and their sister in one foul swoop. The world has lost a legend, but a family has lost their spirit. The road of healing that awaits them is a long one, full of pain, solitude, and confusion, but the spirit of the Mamba lives on through them, and that is how we know that they will be okay.
This tragedy sparked a sadness in many of us. Not just because many of us admired Kobe as a player and as an artist, but because we have been jolted with the painful reminder that life is fragile. People leave for work and kiss their spouses goodbye, but their return home is never guaranteed. Parents drop their children off at school in the morning, but they have no way of knowing for sure whether or not their children will walk out that door in the afternoon.
We love our families. We devote our lives to the ones we love and that love is what pushes us through the hard times. It’s what pushes parents to get up early on a cold and rainy day and head to work. It’s what pushes kids to put in a few extra hours of studying, because they don’t want to let their parents down. It’s what pushes a husband to take the red eye home instead of waiting until the next morning when it’s more convenient, because he just has to hug and kiss his wife. It’s what pushes a sister to go through surgery to remove her kidney, because she knows that her brother needs a new one to live. It's what pushes a family to cancel their long-awaited vacation, instead opting to use that money to pay for their beloved dog's medical treatments. Love is what pushes us to be greater.
This life is a gift, but nothing in it is guaranteed. Hold your loved ones extra close tonight. Relish in the blessing of being with them, of being alive and well. Remind the people you love how much they mean to you, never go to bed angry, don’t let resentment linger, and most of all, take a moment to appreciate how blessed you are to have love in your life.
Kobe was a man who yearned to leave a great legacy, and while he knew he would leave a great athletic legacy, a blossoming artistic legacy, and a profound legacy as a mentor, I don’t think he ever realized that his greatest legacy, apart from his family, would be the reminder to live life to the fullest and to love our hardest.