Growing up around Indianapolis in the 90s meant watching the great Reggie Miller drain threes from “downtown” for the Pacers. Listening to with Slick Leonard scream “boom baby” after every three, despising the Detroit Pistons, and being glued to your tv every time the Pacers faced the Knicks, waiting to see what Reggie would do this time. It also meant having a healthy love-hate relationship with Michael Jordan. However, once he retired, the focus of this love-hate relationship shifted to L.A., where the Lakers built a formidable dynasty led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

Kobe was the guy you hated to play. He seemed to just throw the ball in the air, and it would somehow hit the hoop. Kobe Bryant will always be remembered for what he did on the court, but he also will be known for the man he was off the court. Kobe Bryant was respected around the league for his work ethic (or as he referred to it, “the Mamba mentality”) and his ability to play the game of basketball. “Mamba mentality is all about focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most. It’s the ultimate mantra for the competitive spirit. It started just as a hashtag that came to me one day, and it’s grown into something athletes and even non-athletes embrace as a mindset,” Kobe stated in an interview. We can learn from this mentality when we are talking about our mental health because change doesn’t happen overnight. We need to seek counsel and put in the work to see change in our lives.

In the midst of his dominance on the court, Kobe also faced a battle off the court. In 2003, Kobe was accused of a sexual assault in which the charges were later dropped. The case was later settled in a civil suit. Kobe apologized to his fans and sponsors but still lost several things from this allegation. I want to pause here for a moment and reflect, because as we now see, this moment in time does not define Kobe; rather it is a part of his story. Another thing we can learn from Kobe Bryant’s life is that our past does not define us. Our mistakes don’t become our legacy, they push us to become a better more understanding person, if we let them.

January 26, 2020 will be a day that many look at and say they lost a hero. The day they began to see the world a little bit differently. Around three in the afternoon (EST), TMZ leaked information about Kobe Bryant being killed in an apparent helicopter crash that occurred earlier that morning. If you’re anything like me when you heard this information your reaction may have been something like “This isn’t real,” or “I’m sorry — what,” or even “Oh my goodness!,” followed by telling everyone in the room with you what you just read. As the speculations went on for the next few hours the only thing in my mind was “I can’t imagine what Vanessa Bryant is feeling right now.” The sports fan in me was waiting for reactions from Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Jerry West, and the NBA.

I turned on the live ESPN broadcast called Remembering Kobe and I watched as people began to gather at the Staples Center, the house that Kobe and Shaq built. I wondered how coaches and players on the court were handling the news as they were playing basketball games at the time the world was finding out a basketball legend was no longer in this world. I was enthralled with the news and as I watched these interviews with tears in my eyes, I began to see a beautiful thing. Everyone was bonding over the loss of a man who was loved for the way he lived his life and for his ability to handle a basketball. Grief was being shared and people were processing by telling their story of Kobe Bryant and honoring number 8/24 openly in every way they could think of. Not letting anyone forget him. Kobe’s passing united the world in a way I haven’t seen since 9/11. Something else we can learn from Kobe Bryant is that we need to talk about what is going on in our lives because you are not alone in your struggle. If we just talked about our battles, we’d see that others have felt the same feelings we have.

Many lives have been impacted by the life and the legacy of Kobe Bryant. People have been reminded that life is precious, and we are not promised tomorrow. Cherish the ones around you and love them while they’re here. I continue to pray for Vanessa Bryant and her family, and the many other families affected by the horrible helicopter crash that took nine people’s lives too soon.

Brittany is a therapist at Care to Change, and an avid sports fan. To schedule an appointment with Brittany, click here