Life lessons from a Laker

Body

We don’t often take up sports issues in this space, but the sports world lost an influential athlete over the weekend — one who reached into succeeding generations.

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was killed Sunday, along with his daughter and seven other people, in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles. The retired star was just 41.

Bryant counseled athletes from all sports, many of whom grew up without role models and suddenly faced with having millions of dollars in the bank thanks to their exceptional talents.

But he also reached out to counsel those who might have had a hard time with newfound fame and constantly being under public scrutiny or criticism. He routinely phoned people who were having “a bad patch” in their sport, as is routine at the top levels. These included athletes in sports as different as the National Football League and the Women’s Tennis Association. Bryant counseled many, including quarterback Deshaun Watson and tennis star Naomi Osaka.

We won’t lionize him as he settled out of court his own trouble involving a “he said/she said” and sins of the flesh. But it is obvious he learned from it and poured himself into avoiding those situations and becoming a good parent to his children. (He was on his way to coach his daughter’s basketball game when the crash occurred.)

But what can we in small-town Texas take from the example of a Los Angeles sports superstar?

Maybe just to reach out. We all can be an inspiration to someone struggling, be they young or old, white or brown, rich or poor. The simple act of a phone call, a thank you note, or a word of encouragement can pay huge dividends to someone going through a rough time. All it costs is a bit of our time.

Rest in peace. – K.E.C.