A dancer’s tribute to Kobe Bryant


Hey Dancetopians,
I want to say up top that I’m aware of some of the harmful things Kobe Bryant was accused of in the past — I briefly acknowledge that in this post. However, I do feel it’s important to honor what Kobe Bryant meant to a lot of people. I think we can acknowledge the bad things he may have done and the hurt he may have others, while still mourning the loss of his life, his daughter’s life as well as the seven other victims, and celebrating the good he did in the world. But I’m sensitive to others’ experiences, and aware that conversations about him may be triggering to some so if you need to skip this post, feel free.

I don’t typically post about celebrity deaths. And I recognize that it’s probably strange that the first “In Memoriam” blog I’m writing isn’t even about a dancer. But I felt compelled to share this…

No one can or will accuse me of being a diehard sports fan. But, like many people yesterday, I found myself deeply affected by the sudden death of Kobe Bryant, his young daughter Gianna and the seven passengers who also passed away in the helicopter crash.

I think this was mainly because of the jarring reminder that life is promised to no one; the tangible knowledge that the last moments of a person’s life can begin with them leaving their house on a regular day fully expecting to return.

But I think what touched me the most about Kobe Bryant was remembering a conversation I had with a Lyft driver years ago.

In the fall of 2016 (I think) as I was trekking from Evanston to Skokie to put things in storage during a move, I found myself in a car with a Lyft driver who happened to be an avid (and very chatty) basketball fan. I started out the conversation passively listening to him talk about the sport, but suddenly as the subject switched to the topic of Kobe’s work ethic, my interest was piqued. The driver shared how Kobe’s passion for basketball put him at odds with certain players who often returned at the start of each season out of shape, after he’d spent much of his time in the offseason training and working on his craft.

I never saw that Lyft driver again. I don’t remember his name or what he looked like. Much of the rest of what we talked about is a blur, and you’d still be hard-pressed to catch me watching any sporting event on TV. But as I began my post-college adult life, and my dance career, I found myself returning to this part of the conversation often as I dealt with self-doubt, frustration at not being cast in pieces, and the always-burning desire to live up to my potential. I resolved to “be like Kobe” and work as hard as I could, even when those around me didn’t make the same choice. I decided that while I may not have had all the gifts other dancers had, no one would ever be able to question my work ethic. Nearly four years into my professional dance career, I’d say that mindset, which many would call the “Mamba Mentality,” is serving me well.

It also goes without saying that it speaks volumes that Kobe was able to touch so many lives, from those who watched him on TV religiously, to those, like me, who barely glanced at ESPN.

Kobe’s life and death bring a lot of complex emotions for many people, including me, to the surface, and I absolutely want to acknowledge those feelings. But I also want to recognize, and show gratitude for, the impact his drive to be the best had on me, a person who, even on a good day, is a devoted dancer, but a lackluster sports fan.

Rest well, Kobe.

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