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The Lessons Kobe Bryant Teaches Us

January 27, 2020
The Lessons Kobe Bryant Teaches Us
Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna at a Lakers game on November 17, 2019. (Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

I have complicated thoughts about Kobe Bryant. But I don’t want to rehash them today. Instead, I want to talk about a couple of the very old lessons I think his death should remind us of.

Remember when people used to say, “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy”? We ought to take that more to heart.

There are a great many people who loved Bryant deeply and respected him. There are some people who did not like him. But what happened on Sunday is the kind of fate we should wish on no one. For a man to be cut down in the prime of his life is unfortunate. For a man to die with his child is unimaginable tragedy, the stuff of nightmares.

No one deserves this and seeing it, we ought to be filled with compassion no matter what our preexisting thoughts of the man were.

Which brings us to lesson number two: No one “deserves” God’s mercy, either. He grants it to us out of love because we are His wayward children and He wants us to come home to Him. So His mercy is there for the asking.

If we are going to take anything from Bryant’s life, it should not be the basketball. It should be the evidence that he asked for the Lord’s divine mercy.

And here is point number three: You should pray for people.

No one can know the disposition of another man’s soul. But we don’t have to know. It’s none of our business, really. What we can do—and should do—is pray for others. And not just the people we like, but people about whom we have complicated thoughts, too.

What do you pray for? You pray that they find their way to God’s mercy. It’s as simple as that. Because it’s all that any of us can hope for.

There’s one more lesson we should remind ourselves of: Don’t speak ill of the dead. You don’t have to whitewash the departed and the omertà doesn’t last forever. But in the moments after someone’s passing, don’t be transgressive. There are a dozen reasons for this, but they all loop back to the same basic idea: mercy. For them and for you.

The old codes exist for a reason, because however modern man has become, the ancient truths still bind us: We are dust and to dust we shall return. Everything we do in this world ultimately goes back to that.

Which brings me to one final reminder: We are not guaranteed anything. Don’t push that truth out of your mind for comfort’s sake. Embrace it. Memento mori. And hug your loved ones close to you every chance you get.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.