Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s Achilles’ injury is part of what sparked his pensive post-playing career
Kobe Bryant, in the few short years he had following his illustrious playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers, accomplished more than some people do in a lifetime. Bryant founded a gym for premier athletes, won an Oscar, founded a non-profit, and got the ball moving on a number of children’s books. Beyond that, and perhaps most importantly, he was an involved father and husband.
Bryant was tragically killed in a helicopter accident in late January, a death that shocked the world, and especially the Los Angeles community. The outpouring of support outside of STAPLES Center, where so many iconic Bryant moments took place, was a clear and beautiful display of just that.
Bryant’s transition to his post-playing career was almost too perfect. For a player of his stature and makeup, a mind so obsessed with the game, it would figure that Bryant would struggle to transition away from his obsession.
That’s because his pain with the game taken from him came earlier, in 2013 when he tore his Achilles’ tendon. Put up away from the game for a lengthy period of time for essentially the first time in his career, Bryant faced the mortality of his basketball career and had plenty of time to wonder what would come next.
In a fresh Ramona Shelburne column published on Monday, she quoted Bryant on how the 2013 injury sparked his pondering on what life would be like once basketball was permanently taken away.
“Once I tore my Achilles,” Bryant said in 2016, “I needed to hone in on what the purpose is going to be. I’d been searching for 15 years, but now, ‘The rubber’s got to hit the road’… I’d be lying in bed, with my cast, thinking, ‘You gotta figure out what you want to do next. Because I’ll be damned if I retire without a purpose. That’s not going to happen to me.'”
Jordan, according to Shelburne’s column, sought out a diverse cast of people to figure out how he could map his path out. Shelburne said that Michael Jordan and J.K. Rowling were two people he called on.
She also revealed that the cameras that followed Bryant in his final season were inspired by the same camera crew Jordan had following him in the final year of his run with the Chicago Bulls.
Bryant had a storied NBA career. He was an 18-time All-Star, an MVP, and a five-time champion. But when he’s reflected on as a person, his philanthropic pursuits, example as a family man, and desire to have an impact culturally after his playing career those things may stick out more than even what he did on the court.
It took basketball momentarily being taken away from him to find that. It’s a tragedy, but an inspirational mindset for anyone to consider. What if you value your most prized possessions, people, and blessings as if they were going to escape you someday, even while they’re still with you? How would you live if you viewed them from this lens? Memento mori, amor fati.