The days following the passing of Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and the passengers 7 others who passed away have been strangely difficult. Strange in the sense that I didn’t know any of them personally, difficult in the sense that Kobe has always been somebody I’ve looked up to.
There are hundreds of lessons to learn from Kobe’s work ethic, passion, and love for his family. Most of us know him for being one of the greatest of all time in a sport full of stars—but Kobe was so much more than a basketball player, and he would be the first person to tell you. In his 2016 Espys address, he shared a quote from a high school English teacher that has stuck with me for a long time:
“Rest at the End, Not the Middle”
By most of our definitions, Kobe had reached the end. In fact, he’d reached the end 5 times over—winning 5 championships in his storied career. But he wasn’t done. But for Kobe, his quest was never just to be the best basketball player he could be. He expressed his true quest at the 2016 Espy’s: “My next dream is to be honored one day for inspiring the next generation of athletes to have a dream, sacrifice for it, and never ever rest in the middle.”
The reason it’s so hard for me to mourn the loss of Kobe isn’t that we lost one of the greatest Basketball players of all time—we lost him years ago when he retired. Rather, it’s because Kobe’s quest was so much more than Basketball. When his basketball career was all said and done, he was not consumed with being known as the greatest to ever do it. Rather, he was consumed with the desire to move basketball and athletics forward by inspiring kids to pursue and achieve their dreams. The lessons learned from Kobe and other heroes like him are that the goals we set for ourselves are grounded in something that we truly care about.
Kobe transcended so many other athletes, thinkers, and famous people of our time in that he transcended the very reason he became famous: basketball. He knew that becoming an amazing basketball player serviced his higher purpose—inspiring the next generation. And though it is tragic, it is fitting that he passed away serving that purpose, taking his daughter to a basketball game.
So if you, like me, are mourning Kobe without really feeling like you are allowed to because you don’t know him—then honor him by doing what he did: faithfully attending to the quest, the higher calling laid out before you. And even when the material wealth comes, or the fame, or the common markings of it, remind yourself of his words: rest at the end, not the middle.