“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” It’s possibly the best commercial Michael Jordan ever made. “Failure” was as unexpected as it was insightful. If you haven’t seen it yet, what planet are you from?
All the greats have such experiences, but not at 18 years old in the NBA playoffs. Next to an in-his-prime Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant embraced the possibility of failure. It was that failure that helped him to succeed. Kobe and Shaq may have broken up their basketball marriage because there was only one ball. But it was Shaq who encouraged young Kobe to let it fly.
“When he missed, I was the one who grabbed him and said, ‘Hey, everybody’s laughing at you now, but one day people are gonna fear you when you get the ball in the last second’”Shaquille O’Neal, “All Things Covered”
After their careers ended, we’ve seen that the two had repaired their relationship, acknowledging each other’s accomplishments. In that time, both shared more and more stories about playing together for the Lakers. Kobe’s tragic death led to Shaq opening even more about his teammate. On the CBS Sports’ “All Things Covered” podcast with Patrick Patterson and Bryant McFadden, O’Neal talked about rookie Kobe Bryant and that infamous “Airball game” against Utah.
For those who don’t remember, an 18-year old Kobe took four shots in a close game against Utah Jazz in the 1997 Western Conference Semifinals that didn’t even touch the rim. The Lakers lost that one and the whole series in five games. O’Neal referred to that game as an example of Kobe’s will to be the best ever and his no-fear mindset even at a young age.
“The most memorable moment is when he came in at 17 and wanted to be the best ever. And we had to be like, ‘Hey man, chill. Relax, you’re gonna get there.‘ We had to, like, let him go. People always go back to Utah game where he shot those three airballs. He was the only guy that wanted the shot. He wanted to be great; he wanted to be in that moment.”Shaquille O’Neal, “All Things Covered”
All the game winners and clutch moments in Kobe’s career were built on the “Airball game,” and a few moments like that. That’s why the greatest respect the guy who puts in the work and has the courage to take the shot. It’s the only way to be ready to take the biggest ones when the time comes.