Why I Respect Kobe Bryant

This past Sunday much of the world was rocked when we learned that Kobe Bryant, arguably one of the best basketball players of all time, was killed along with his daughter and seven other people in a helicopter crash. My wife, daughter and son all have basketball “in their veins” having been serious basketball players in school. They each have their “Kobe stories.” If you watched much (or any) basketball in the last 20 years, you probably have a Kobe story, too.

This week the news media and personal conversations were filled with accolades for Kobe’s contributions to the sport of basketball. His records are nothing short of amazing…20 years in the NBA…and all with the LA Lakers, 5 NBA Championships, 18 All-Star Team elections, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, NBA MVP, and even an Academy Award last year for the Best Animated Short Film.

By all accounts, he was talented, dedicated and disciplined to the sport beyond which even other greats like Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal have testified. But that’s not why I respect him.

Several years ago there was a media storm about his marital problems. Both he and his wife, Vanessa, had filed divorce papers and were set to go to court to end their marriage. It didn’t happen!

What did happen (and this why I’m proud of him) was almost unheard of. Kobe went to his wife and confessed his sins, and then stood up in front of the media and admitted his marital failings. He then set about becoming the best husband to Vanessa, and father to four beautiful daughters that he could. And that took courage, character and a huge dose of humility.

After their reconciliation he was public about his need to commit more, and better, quality time with his family. He was visible at school, sporting and public events…frequently with his family at his side. He picked his kids up from school, coached their teams, and publicly “gushed” about his family. Thank you, Kobe for showing us what a Tender Lion is all about. Tender and tough, soft and strong, kind and courageous.

May our thoughts and prayers be with these people and their families: Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, John and Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa, Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton, Christina Mauser, coach, Ara Zobayan, pilot

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