The morning after 20 years

Ever since Kobe announced his retirement from basketball at the start of this NBA season, I have wondered what it would be like for him to wake up the morning after his last game. I imagine there would be a moment of silence – perhaps Vanessa, his wife, would still be sleeping soundly beside him and his beautiful daughters would still be tucked in their beds. It would be just him with his thoughts. What would it be like for him to open his eyes, knowing that there won’t be practice, or a match to prepare for? What does it feel like to let go of something you have been doing, and loving, for 20 years? How do you face the mornings after that?

In his heartfelt, well-written farewell letter to basketball, Kobe gave me a glimpse of what that morning after would be like. There would be the element of disbelief, perhaps the anxiety facing the unknown, but I am almost certain… There will be joy.

I’m no great athlete or global sports icon but Kobe’s letter has made me realize how important it is to live life with passion, wherever we are playing. To give it your heart, not just your hustle.

I tear up several times throughout his letter but this line did me in: “I did everything for YOU because that’s what you do when someone makes you feel as alive as you’ve made me feel.”

No regrets. In Kobe’s interview after his last game at the Staples Center, he said he’s grateful because he left “no stone unturned.”

It made me wonder, have I done the same with what I’ve been given, with where I am? Do I give my heart, not just my hustle to everything that truly matters in my life? Will I be able to say that I am grateful because I have left no stone unturned when it is time to go?

It is sad to see Kobe step off the court, take off his jersey for hanging and untie the laces of his game shoes one final time. But there is also so much joy in looking at what he has left behind and what has stayed with him.

By giving his heart to basketball, he has impacted a generation of players. He has given meaning to basketball because he valued it not just as a profit-making activity, but as a sport, a craft. And isn’t that what happens to anything that you give your heart to? It comes to life with meaning, people turn to watch, and by some miracle, they, too are changed.

So once again, thank you Kobe. For living a picture of what it looks like when you live life with gratitude – full of heart…and it becomes a legacy.

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