Kobe the Culture Shaper

During his life, Kobe inspired many to be great players. In his death, Kobe is inspiring many to be great fathers.


Throughout his illustrious 20-year career in the NBA, Kobe was immensely popular and yet extremely polarizing. He had his good, bad, and ugly moments, while living in a fish bowl. Nevertheless, as his career came to an end, he was deeply respected by fans and foes alike—for being a fierce competitor and having a brilliant mind.

I can’t remember a celebrity death that has been this impactful, at least during my lifetime. I’ve been a Laker fan since 1991, so like many others my age, we grew up watching Kobe and wanting to play like Kobe.

There is a lot I can say about Kobe, from his work ethic and his resiliency. To even his leadership….

Today, I watched an interview he gave only a few years ago. He explained that he used to just yell at his teammates when they weren’t performing at their best. Then, he realized that the yelling wasn’t working. He discovered that they weren’t performing at their highest potential because they had to change their internal dialogue. 

So Kobe said that he went from yelling to listening.

He said it was time consuming, yet he would have breakfast and lunch with his teammates to hear what’s going on in their lives and with their soul. Kobe would actively listen for their fears. He would then endeavor to dismantle those fears—for those fears were stifling their performance on the court. Kobe said that unless the current NBA stars learned to do that for their teammates, their teams won’t become championship teams.

What Kobe was most recognized for in the last few years (especially the last few months and days) was being a supportive and present father.

He wanted to be the best father he could possibly be—that was one reason he started traveling by helicopter—to make more time for the family. His final game in 2016 was celebrated with his wife and daughters, as the world looked on. We saw Kobe—the straight-out-of-high-school basketball phenom, evolve into Kobe—the family man. Recently, we would see Kobe at the Laker games with his daughter Gianna. Kobe was coaching his daughter’s team and they were en route to a tournament in Thousand Oaks when the tragedy occurred.

I know I’m just sharing stuff that we all heard and read over and over, the last few days. So, would you allow me to share something I feel in my heart?

Perhaps God is speaking through this tragedy and calling fathers back to their children and children back to their fathers (see Malachi 4:6). 

Kobe was and still is a trendsetter and a culture shaper. Who else is known by their first name? What Kobe does is the new cool. That’s why he was paid millions for shooting a 30-second commercial or posing for a poster. For the countless men who never had a strong father figure in their lives, Kobe was someone that they may have looked up to. Even the toughest of guys respected him—because they saw the heart of a champion and a fearless competitor. Kobe was a key figure in Los Angeles—which may be the most influential place on planet Earth. 

Kobe showed the world that being a present father was the coolest and manliest thing that any dude can be. 

He died while coaching his daughter and supporting her dream. Perhaps God is speaking through this tragedy, calling dads to be present and encouraging. Sports analysts and his personal friends have publicly said that Kobe was more successful and fulfilled in his second career than his first one.

Maybe we need to be realizing that what’s more valuable than succeeding in our careers is succeeding in our families (especially for us driven folks). Most of us won’t be NBA champions or gold medalists. Yet, I do wonder if this tragedy is calling us dads to step up our game and be the best fathers we can possibly be. For that, my friends, will heal our world.

Published by Daniel H. Park

A Pastor in the South Bay of Los Angeles. Leading Jesuscenter.com

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