When A Legend Dies

So, I’m not writing this for anyone really but me.

When a Legend Dies, Martin Luther King Jr, John and Robert Kennedy, James Dean, Elvis Presley all come to mind.

When a Legend dies, it shakes the world.  Their death isn’t worse than that of a “regular person” but the reach, the connections, the effect is seismic as we are all connected.  Yesterday it was Kobe Bryant.  Not since the death of Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburg Pirates have we been so shocked in the sports world.

I had just gotten home from church, turned on the TV to watch a little golf, rest, and prepare for the evening, when a News Alert came up, and a headshot of Kobe Bryant and at the bottom of the screen, (1978-2020) “Kobe Bryant is Dead”.  I said, what all did, “Wait, What?”

And here I am 24 hours later and still find emotions rising and tears falling.  Why?  Fan?  Actually not so much.  I’m a huge sports fan, a statistics guy, a loyal fan.  When it comes to basketball, my loyalties have been fluid.  When I was a little boy, I became a Celtic fan briefly because John Havlicek played for them and he had played for Ohio State, where I grew up.  Then Dr. J caught my eye and I liked the Sixers.  Then Magic Johnson hit the scene in the late 70s and he infected me with his smile, athletic joy, and selfless involvement of his teammates, and I was a Laker fan throughout the 80s.  Then we moved to Houston in 1990.  I became a Rocket fan.  I loved the Rockets because they worked hard, they were passionate, they each knew their role.  And that produced two championships.

Then this young kid comes out of High School to play for the Lakers.  He seemed brash, entitled, and he wasn’t a Rocket.  So, I wasn’t a fan.  I wasn’t even impressed at first.  It was things off court that didn’t impress me.  in 2003 negative headlines came out as youth combined with entitlement and merged into an encounter that brought charges of sexual misconduct.  After time, and money, the charges went away.  I wasn’t a fan.

But he stayed.  He stayed in his marriage and he stayed in the gym.  And I should say that Vanessa stayed too.  We don’t know much about her, but it was trying, she even miscarried during this time, but she stayed.

There were tensions too on his team, that even 3 championships couldn’t fix.  But it turns out the reason was his perception that others weren’t committed to work like he was.  He didn’t expect perfection but he expected work.

I’m an outsider, processing pain, but, I saw a guy who continued to play, and gained more championships, was an 18 time All-Star.  But in 2011 Vanessa filed for divorce siting “Irreconcilable Differences”.  “Irreconcilable”, though doesn’t have to always be true.  And like Kobe “the Baller”, Kobe the Husband and Father went back to work.  He was not allowing that word to remain true.  And by 2013 Vanessa said, “we are pleased to announce that we have RECONCILED.  Our divorce action will be dismissed.  We are looking forward to our future together.”  And last year, 2019, they celebrated 20 years of marriage and in a post Kobe said about Vanessa, “I love you my mamacita per siempre” (mama for always).

He was an amazing basketball player, but as time takes our ability, it doesn’t have to take our passion to be a better person, better spouse, better parents, better children.

So, i’ve sort of become a fan without realizing it.

What I respect about Kobe was that he kept working.  Obviously he was willing to say, “I’m sorry”, “and “I need to be better”.  But also he was then willing to actually do the work to get better.  Yeah, he dropped 60 points on his final day, and he left the game as a player, but he kept getting better.  He became a successful investor in business, formed a media company, won an Academy Award, wrote children’s books, non-fiction, and fiction books.  He was not living on the past, but moving to the future.  His future was about changing the world, being there for his family and for his friends.

Many have commented on the tragedy but I took special note of what Shaquille O’Neal said, “there are no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my NEICE Gigi and my FRIEND, my BROTHER, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie.” (emphasis mine).  Shaq’s son also posted a text exchange between he and Kobe on Sunday morning before the tragedy as Kobe was checking in on him and Shareef refers to him as “Unc” (uncle).

Why is this important?  Because 15+ years ago they played together, but they fought and feuded and eventually Shaq was traded.  Both had success apart, but it could have ended a partnership and a friendship.  To me, it is obvious that BOTH men valued friendship over agreement.  And both continued to do the work and build their friendship to the level of FAMILY, brotherhood.

Changing the world, valuing friends, and loving family that’s what mattered.

I’m a fan of that

What now?  Some thoughts

Don’t wallow in failure, get to work.

Don’t let past words define your present or future reality.

Say, “I’m sorry”, “I’m wrong”, and “What can I do to make this right?”

Enjoy the past successes, but move toward a new future.

Learn to do something new and work to do it at the highest level.

People Matter


So, I can’t speak to Kobe’s faith.  I’ve read that he was Catholic and became more fervent after some of those trials.  I pray that his family and those of the others lost will turn to Christ for strength and find hope through faith in Jesus Christ.

9 Lives lost yesterday.  3 Husbands/Fathers, 3 Wives/Mothers, 3 Teenage Girls, and 5 families devastated.  A tragedy most powerful because it touches such a broad base of the world.

I will finish then with where my thoughts went today, living as if today might be my last. Here are words from C.T. Studd, a famous British Cricketer, who became a Missionary in China.

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee


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