On Kobe's Retirement

I read Kobe’s poem last night twice, the first time waiting for Brandon to take me to my goodbye barbecue, the second time waiting in the airport to board my flight. I am going to miss him, and not just because of this:

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Kobe has been my muse in the same way that basketball has been his. He has inspired me to not only work harder and be better, but to think about why it is that we work harder and how it is that can be better. I still don’t know if I have in me what he took out of himself for the game he loved.

There’s one other aspect of Kobe that I want to highlight today, and that is redemption. Kobe had a brilliant early career. But then, in Colorado, in a situation that is too complex for me to render judgment on other than great disappointment about whatever happened in that hotel room, Kobe risked upending his career. And he was lucky it didn't—today, for better or for worse, a rape allegation would probably have meant the end of his career.*

But Kobe happened to be accused of rape at a moment where people cared (maybe unlike they would have in the past), but when there was still a little bit of privacy and a little time for redemption. And he tried as best he could to redeem himself, by rededicating himself to his family and to his work in a way that few others have. 

As a society today we don’t have much faith in redemption. We are quick to judge, and slow to forgive. We think that mistakes—and yes, sometimes mistakes are awful and horrible—define character, and that character cannot be changed. We lack the compassion to know that we all fail, quite often, and that sometimes we just need to opportunity to go from Kobe to Mamba. To look on our failures--moral, professional, whatever--and transcend them.

So while I often think of Kobe as an inspirational figure because of the work ethic he brings and the dedication to his craft that he instantiates, I think on this day—above all others—we should remember Kobe at his darkest, and be reminded that we can crawl back to the lights even out of the abyss.

I’ll miss you, Kobe, even though we never met. 

*I should say better if it's true, worse if not, and I generally try to avoid making judgments about which is which when I don't really have any evidence.

© Henry Gruber 2013