Since basketball player Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna died in a helicopter crash last month, I’ve found myself listening to interviews with and about Kobe Bryant.
I’m not exactly sure why. I have no idea about basketball really. Before he died, I knew Kobe’s name mostly as cultural reference – that he’d played for the Los Angeles Lakers, he’d retired, and had controversy in his private life which he’d never quite redeemed. Perhaps he spent his life redeeming it. Plus the appearance he made on the movie Daddy’s Home. Lulu pointed that one out. It’s a Quest classic.
The girldad definition about him was a revelation. After I read and watched Kobe Bryant looking after his four daughters – inspiring and teaching them, while they so obviously enjoyed being together, I was drawn in. I’d missed knowing about him when he was alive.
His life in part reminded me of Bryan Stevenson, the US human-rights lawyer’s words: ‘Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.’ Bryan Stevenson understands human. In this way, Kobe Bryant was so obviously human.
Unfortunately, human also means mortal.
As well as his own death, the tragedy lies in his 13-year old daughter Gianna dying with him, as well as the seven other people riding in the helicopter. The investigation into the circumstances of their crash has only just begun.
That’s not the part that I’ve been focusing on though. My catch-up on Kobe Bryant has been with his life. Reading and listening to what was important to him. I couldn’t pin it down. It was something I could smell – something drawing me in.
I listened to a podcast interview Kobe gave in 2018. His voice was amazing btw. It had such a relaxed but focused intelligence – all encased in timbre. Was this guy a demi-god, Percy Jackson-style, I wondered? Since reading Percy Jackson, I totally believe in demi-gods.
The interviewer was asking about Kobe’s well-being post-retirement. Kobe surprised me. He didn’t struggle with the answer, as some athletes do. He wanted to be a storyteller, he said.
The thing he hadn’t figured out though, which was bugging him, was how he could tell a good story. My ears pricked up. Thank you! Amen. I’d found it. This was at the heart of the same question which I ask myself – a lot.
Kobe explained himself. ‘I think stories [are] what moves the world. Whether it’s an inspirational story, or it’s an informational one, nothing in this world moves without story. Be it from the political world, the sports world, nothing that we have moves without story. And so I think that is the root of everything.’
I was completely still by this point. Each word vibrated in the air. I felt it. Story is everything. It’s what makes us care. It’s what makes us change.
We know now Kobe’s own life had terrible poignancy to come. And yet it’s made his own legacy a more powerful story. I listened to the end of the podcast and then to the silence in the room.