The Black Mamba: The ‘Measure of a Man’

By: Omowale Luthuli-Allen


Are you still wiping the tears from your eyes? I am, and so are tens of millions sobbing for a man who defined a generation.

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson said that there will be no more great performances. We have just witnessed a magnificent performance that now belongs to the ages. His competitors on the hardwood labeled him the “Black Mamba” because he would finish an opponent. His game was total, long range, mid-range and short range with equal mastery. He entered the NBA as a teenager and he quickly honed his talent to an elite level. He wrote the book on how to go from good to great.

Do we measure Kobe on five NBA championships and MVP status? Do we measure Kobe on his creative genius in the motion picture studio? Do we marvel because of the Oscar that he received from his animated masterwork? Or do we measure him on the smile that could slay a child in buttermilk bottom or an adult in the suites or streets?

Horace Mann said that all of us should be afraid to die until we have won some victory for humanity. Kobe will approach the bar and account for how he spent his time and how the world is improved by his performance. The curtain came down in a crushing manner, but none of us know the day nor hour we are called home. None of us know the circumstances of how we will become a shooting star.

Kobe perished with his 13-year-old daughter while traveling to a basketball event. His greatest performance will be measured by the contributions that he made to his family and, secondly, his community. After a youthful misstep, he focused his eye on the prize and recreated himself. He built a new Kobe Bryant. When Kobe harnessed his passion and disciplined himself, he inspired greatness to return to his team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, he was already good, but good is the enemy of the great.

Collins explains in his book that some organizations make the leap from good to great. Building a team around Kobe meant that management had to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off and the right people in the right seats. Greatness married hard work and a winner was produced.

Kobe embraced the responsibility of helping those in need. He made generous contributions to the Make a Wish Foundation and tasked himself to help provide supportive housing to homeless kids. He epitomized the phrase, “make money, but don’t let money make you.”

On the granite wall at the Smithsonian National African American History Museum is a plaque with a list of contributors. Prominent is the name of Kobe Bryant who donated $1 million or more. He donated without fanfare or braggadocio. Think of all the people that he has silently helped.

You can’t help but love this man. Kobe, keep smiling from above. If you had been a shoeshine boy, your smile would have made you rich and successful.

Love him because he fought for girls and equality in sports. Love him for his composure and dignity. Love him for having a yardstick of trying not to do things that stole dignity from himself, his family and community. Love him for an overcoming spirit, owning his shortcomings and propelling through real and imaginary monsters. Love him for making a muse dance inside your heart and head when he smiled. Love him for thinking and living on his feet, rather than on his knees. Love him for resisting the influences that would have him wear an ankle monitor. Love him for being a daddy and husband. Love his father, Jellybean Joe Bryant, for cultivating his gifts

Kobe won a victory for humanity. There is no shame in his game. We are better and the world is better because one solitary man rode into hell and snatched victory from the foul jaws of defeat. We are better due to a silky-smooth brother becoming a role model that was not incarcerated, not unemployed, not poor. We love him for his sweet inspiration.

Kobe says to all the young black brothers and sisters, you have a shot to make it in life and in America. All you have to do is believe, prepare and work your behind off.










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