The same way 2003 is one of the great draft years in NBA history, 2020 will be remembered as a horrible year. On the very first day of 2020, we lost David Stern, the architect of the NBA as we know it. Not a great way to start the year. Twenty-five days later, a helicopter crashed in Calabasas - Kobe, Gigi, and seven others gone. 2020 seriously sucked. If that wasn’t enough, we all learned way too much about epidemiology after a global pandemic took over our lives, with over 6 million infected and 370k dead. Could it get worse?
Then May 25th happened. George Floyd was in a parked car when police showed up with a report he may have paid for cigarettes with a fake $20 bill. What happened next is under investigation and to be determined, but a video of a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck while he was pinned to the floor went viral.
NBA players, coaches, and officials spoke up after yet another death of an African-American man in police custody. In the sea of social media posts and reactions, one hit hard. Vanessa Bryant posted this last night.
It’s still surreal to see Kobe and realize he’s not with us anymore. There’s always half a second before I remember that damn January 26th happened, and I was in my kitchen when Will S sent the TMZ link. After that first shock, a second one hits - this was in 2014, and not much has changed. Kobe arranged “I can’t breathe” t-shirts for the Lakers after another African-American man spent his dying breath, asking a police officer to let him breathe. After the game, Kobe shared his thoughts.
“I think it would be a serious disservice to limit this to a race issue. It’s a justice issue. ... The beauty of our country lies in its democracy. I think if we ever lose the courage to be able to speak up for the things that we believe in, I think we really lose the value that our country stands for.”
Kobe Bryant, LA Times
Unfortunately, Kobe was wrong that day when he said the “I can’t breathe” t-shirts were a symbol of a tipping point in American society - a tipping point in the way social issues are talked about and addressed. Six years later, another African-American man couldn’t breathe. Still, Kobe’s message in 2014 resonates today.
“We have the ability to question these things in a peaceful fashion. That’s what makes us a great country. We have the ability to voice up, we have the platform to speak up, and we have the platform to affect change.”
Kobe Bryant, LA Times
If we ever needed Mamba Mentality, the philosophy of “just trying to get better every day; the simplest form of just trying to get better at whatever you’re doing,” we need it now. Kobe’s mission was to infect everyone with that mentality, whether it was playing basketball, painting, or affecting change in our community.