“Live in a way, in which you die, everyone mourns but you rejoice.” –Anonymous
Dear Mr. Bryant,
They say hindsight is 20/20, which is why I gave myself some time before I wrote you this letter. I didn’t want it to come off as reactionary.
Since the injury that caused your Achilles tendon to tear, I’ve watched it around 25 times, each time less painful as the first. Time heals all, as people like to say; but raw emotion is the most genuine.
On Friday night when you tore your Achilles tendon on what looked like a routine drive, I was rendered speechless. Luckily, I haven’t experienced any deaths in my family at this point in my life but when you hobbled off the court after a THIRD injury to your lower body in the same night and didn’t return, it felt as if someone close to me had passed away. I felt hollow, and watched the remaining four minutes of the game in silence, numb to whatever else happened beyond that point.
After the game I scrolled through my Twitter feed and streamed your press conference to find out the severity of the injury. Upon finding out it was the Achilles, one writer tweeted that the previous players who suffered this injury (Chauncey Billups, Elton Brand and Mehmet Okur) never reached their pre-injury playing form. And on top of that you were fighting back tears as the media barraged you with questions. Subconsciously tears rolled down my cheek, as the reality of having to watch Lakers basketball without you became a possibility for the first time in 17 years. I was devastated.
We all need hope in our lives, it’s used a motive for a lot of us normal folk to continue to live. Hope that we do well in school, so we can hopefully get into university, which we hope can lead to a career that can provide for our future families, so on and so forth. You were that hope for so many of us, even when we come up a little short in our daily goals we all knew at 7:30 p.m. PST we’d be able to switch on our television sets and live vicariously through your heroics to feel vindicated. If you can make three impossible three pointers to orchestrate a comeback against the Toronto Raptors, then we could most definitely nail a measly job interview.
Side note: the day of the Warriors game I had a meeting with the chair of a prospective post-secondary school I was looking to transfer to. In preparation for said meeting, I watched your latest interview with TWC and mimicked your mannerisms when the meeting occurred.
I refused to believe this was the end to your legendary career. That one attempted drive to the basket gone wrong would prematurely end your quest for a sixth ring to tie Michael Jordan. I couldn’t believe it, so I continued to sit through your interview, as the tears continued to waterfall incessantly, hoping you’d provide me with some sort of silver lining to this tragedy.
And it came. A reporter asked the million dollar question that was on all of our minds: “if anyone is going to get through this, it’s probably you right?” (in reference to how your willpower is equal to that of 25 hungry mountain lions each fighting over a piece of raw meat)
Then you replied as only you can: “Ah sh*t…I was really tired man, just tired in the locker room, upset and dejected thinking about this (pause) mountain man to overcome…I mean this is a long process, I wasn’t sure I could do it. Then your kids walk in, then you’re like I gotta set an example, Daddy’s gonna be fine, I’m gonna do it, work hard and just go from there.”
At that moment you weren’t just talking to Natalia and Gianna, you were talking to the rest of us who look up to you like a father.
The fear of losing my idol to injury was replaced with a sense of appreciation of what you’ve already meant. Sure, you might never come back the same player (fingers crossed that you’ll come back even better) but the way you went out that night should serve as an eternal source of inspiration in itself. On one leg you made two free throws, which ended up being the decisive two points the Lakers won by, walked to the locker room on your own accord, reflected and put everything into context.
You put a lot of money into the Kobe System campaign last year, but you advertised it perfectly Friday night. By handling the situation the way you did, you came off as a warrior even in your weakest moment, and that is the true essence of the Kobe System.
Later that night you posted a rant on Facebook saying “there are far greater issues in the world than a torn achilles. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever.”
And for the upteempth time you were right.
Two nights later, your team put together one of their best performances of the season by downing the San Antonio Spurs. The day after, bombings occured at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. In other words, life went on.
You have spoiled us with your talent Mr. Bryant, and for that I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude for. Instead I’m grateful that your injury has allowed me to see that I should cherish every moment as we never know when the goals we strive all our lives for can be taken away from us in an instant; just as they were from you Friday night.
Get better soon Mr. Bryant, I love you.
Gabriel “Gaber” Lee