Bankole: Kobe Bryant and the ultimate question

Bankole Thompson

I did not expect Kobe Bryant to be gone so soon at 41. His death in a helicopter crash in southern California last Sunday shocked us all. The news that Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna died with her father in the crash further broke our hearts.

Gianna Bryant sits on the shoulders of her father, Kobe, in 2014.

But the demise of this basketball legend revealed something deeper about life that we often ignore:

No matter how busy we are with the demands of life, including our professional and personal obligations, death could knock on our door anytime.

Death doesn’t discriminate based on the color of your skin or how much wealth you’ve accumulated.

After the hustle and bustle of life, each of us will arrive at the end. It's a painful, scary reality we can't escape.  

Yet after the sudden tragedy that cut Bryant’s life short, the question that remains is whether any of us will be ready when death comes calling.

I cannot tell if Bryant was ready to meet his fate. But one thing is clear: He left a remarkable and indomitable legacy that must be carried on from one generation to the other. His spellbinding and illustrious career should not end with the fact that he and his beloved daughter died.

Bryant's death underscores the importance of leaving a legacy that others can emulate in building the next generation of heroes, basketball stars and worthy ambassadors of the black community.

The kind of legacy we leave behind determines how we will be remembered by others, and the greatest legacy is one that positively influences children to see our lives as a light that guides their path in life.

Already LeBron James, one of the greatest players of the modern era, has pledged to continue Bryant’s legacy. In an emotional social media post on Instagram, James vowed that his own life would continue be a living evidence of his friend’s work and impact. 

“I’m heartbroken and devastated, my brother. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy. You mean so much to us all here especially LakersNation. ... Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me,” James wrote in an ode to Bryant.

It should not only be James who makes this public commitment and vows to see it through. He is an extraordinary figure with deep social consciousness, who has taken his talents and riches beyond the basketball court to the arena of social justice by helping underserved communities in his hometown. I have no doubt that James would do something monumental at some point to uphold the legacy of Bryant.

Kobe Bryant watches the clock run down the final seconds of Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal against the San Antonio Spurs.

We must all work to keep Bryant's memory alive by pointing to the examples of the kind of work he did empowering young people and giving them an opportunity to thrive in sports and beyond as well as preserving black culture.

For example, Bryant's foundation was a major donor to the efforts that led to the creation of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.  

Memory is all we have to remember those who made an impact either in our lives or in the larger community.

And the memory of those who have died, is even more powerful when their legacies remain in testament to the goodness of the human spirit. We will always remember and honor those who were generous defenders of the powerless.