Lanz Aaron G. Tan
MANILA, Philippines — Is there ever a definitive yardstick to measure success in life? Accolades? Relationships? Legacies? It’s all too easy to pay tribute to the achievements of five-time NBA champion, 17-time All-Star and Academy Award winner Kobe Bryant, but what should tributes be if not celebrations of life itself?
What defined Kobe was his “Mamba Mentality” a gritty dedication to winning that had colored the storied athlete with accolades left, right and center. Kobe always faced insurmountable odds. He entered the NBA at age 17. Twelve players were drafted over him. In his first two seasons, he started just three out of 150 games. But despite those odds, Kobe succeeded.
It’s impossible to pay homage to Kobe’s legacy without admiring his burgeoning post-retirement career. Again, the odds were stacked against Kobe. Hollywood is an industry where athletes haven’t had the cleanest track record. And perhaps nothing speaks to Kobe’s spirit of dedication like his work in animation and children’s storytelling, becoming the first athlete to be nominated for — and awarded with— an Oscar.
Kobe, alongside veteran Disney animator Glen Keane, transformed the poem announcing his retirement, Dear Basketball (2017), into a heartwarming animated short. With frames exuding a grainy hand-drawn nostalgia unbecoming of today’s computer-smoothed graphics, innovative animation techniques and a soaring score by none other than John Williams, the filmmaking behind Dear Basketball did justice to Kobe’s promising outlook in a completely new field.
Perhaps, it’s the suddenness of his death that has hit most fans the hardest. Kobe was only 41 when he passed away on Jan. 26, and had played in his farewell NBA game (where he scored 60 points in a comeback win) less than four years earlier.
It’s a difficult reminder that we shouldn’t take life for granted, and looking back on the mosaic of Kobe’s career, perhaps that’s a parting message most befitting Kobe’s own legacy. Dear Basketball was not only a testament to Kobe’s versatility, but an encapsulation of his virile love of life. Not one second, not one person, should be taken for granted because there’s no greater yardstick to measuring success in life than living life itself.
“I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.”