We all thought Kobe would be there for decades to come. He wasn't old or ill - no reason to consider his mortality yet. You start making peace with that when you fully retire, in your 70s or 80s, right? That's my plan at least. During his emotional appearance on The Jump, Tracy McGrady shared a bizarre fact. When he and Kobe spent time together as young men in the NBA, Kobe talked about wanting to die young.
“Kobe spoke this. He used to say all the time 'I want to die young,' and I thought it was crazy. He used to say 'I want to die young. I want to be immortalized. Have my career, be better than Michael Jordan and I want to die young.' I thought he was so crazy for saying that.”
Tracy McGrady, The Jump
This, of course, changed after he got married and had four daughters, but it shows you how obsessed with being the greatest Kobe was. This tragedy made us all accept how fragile life is and that we have to consider our mortality sooner than we think. Kobe did. In an interview with Micah Peters for The Ringer, Kobe talked about what's his relationship with death.
”A comfortable one. It's a comfortable one. It's an understanding - you can't have life without death, can't have light without dark. So it's an acceptance of that.”
Kobe Bryant, The Ringer
Kobe continued to explain that most athletes consider their mortality at the end of their careers. For them, retirement and those questions hit at 30-40, much sooner than the rest of us. After his Achilles injury, Kobe realized that's the beginning of the end for him as a basketball player. Ramona Shelburne talked about speaking to Kobe about this and him being determined he wouldn't have wasted years while he tried to figure out what's his next move.
He referred to MJ as an example of what he wants to avoid. That's why Kobe had a plan for his post-basketball career made long before his last game. When he was asked what will he do the day after his last game, Kobe's answer was surprising. He said he would get up a 5 am, work out, and go to his office. Many thought he was crazy and maniacal. Two years later, he won an Academy Award.
In that interview, Micah Richards asked Kobe what he thinks happens when he dies. With a curious smile on his face, Kobe said, "I don't know. I'll know when I die." We know a part of the answer is how Keanu Reeves explained it. Those who love him miss him.