A few days ago, the sports world was rocked with the awful news that 9 people had died in a helicopter crash. The victims were girls’ basketball coaches, mothers, fathers, a pilot, and teenage girls. Among them was soon-to-be Basketball Hall of Famer- Kobe Bryant.
As I reflected on these tragic events, I was reminded of something I wrote back in 2018 that I have found eerily relevant for today. Feel free to check it out here: Life and Basketball.
Kobe played in the NBA for 20 years and through those 2 decades, I can remember cheering both for and against him. His incredible skill matched with his relentless work ethic helped form him into one of the best to ever play.
But Kobe was not perfect. Off the court, he had legal issues that put a strain on his family. While, on the court, he often would feud with teammates and, especially in the first half of his career, was known for being incredibly arrogant. However, despite those imperfections, Kobe worked hard to mature as a person and a basketball player. He worked to repair the damage done to his family and now is remembered as a loving husband and father who championed the efforts of female athletes. In the basketball world, he became a mentor to many young players and worked to repair broken relationships with old teammates. He went from a “punk kid” straight out of high school who made many mistakes, to an elder statesman of basketball and a good role model to many.
His journey to maturity is inspiring and should be seen as a wonderful example.
While reflecting on the recent tragic events I found myself, like many, watching videos of Kobe highlights. I found myself watching portions of his final NBA game where he scored an incredible 60 points. It was the most “Kobe” game I could think of. He took 50 shots, rarely passed the ball, (in fairness because others simply wanted to see him score) and was the hero in crunch time sinking 2 free throws to put the game out of reach and secure the win.
But the thing that struck me the most from his whole performance wasn’t the shooting or the slick moves. It was his final stat recorded as an NBA player.
Kobe Bryant’s final act as an NBA player was to pass the ball.
Wow. Incredible. First, that’s incredible because he was not necessarily known for sharing the ball. Secondly, and more importantly, it was symbolic.
In the final seconds of the game Number 24 collected a rebound and then made a beautiful near-full court pass to a young player second-year player who then threw down a flashy dunk.
Kobe had passed the torch.
In life, torch-passing is an essential need. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to teach, mentor, and pour into those that are younger than us.
As followers of Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we are teaching, training, listening to, supporting, and championing younger generations.
There are numerous examples of this found in the Bible. Moses trained Joshua. Elijah taught Elisha. Paul mentored and supported Timothy. In each of these cases are excellent examples of experienced followers of God pouring into younger believers for the good of God’s people.
The church of Jesus Christ needs to invest in younger people. You need to invest in younger people. I need to invest in younger people.
But the point is, if we are going to reach more people with the Good life-giving news of Jesus, both now and in the future, then we need to be including people younger than ourselves.
It’s all for the glory of our God and the good of our team.
If Kobe could pass the ball, so can you.