Kobe: One Love   Leave a comment

(Let me make a short disclaimer before you get to the rest of my material. I understand that there are Kobe haters out there. Well, please don’t take what I’m writing now as an opportunity to point out the many and glaring faults of Kobe Bryant. All I am trying to do is point out one aspect of who he is and bringing forth a life lesson on how we should be living our lives. Also, for you Kobe lovers, this is not an article that validates and vindicates Kobe Bryant. Please, for both sides, take it for what it is.)

Nearly a year after getting blown out by 29 points against the Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant held the O’Brien Championship Trophy that had eluded his grasps since 2002. And, despite all the detractors, there is one thing that everyone must agree on about Kobe Bryant–there has rarely been a career that has exhibited such a dedication, such a determination, such a dogged pursuit of a championship. No one outside of Los Angeles would dare make the argument that Bryant is the greatest player in NBA history; and reasonable minds will disagree on whether Bryant is one of the five greatest players of all time (a recent SLAM magazine list placed Bryant 12th all-time); you will get both sides of the argument as to whether Bryant raped the white girl in Colorado; you can join J.A. Adande is praising Bryant for changing this year or you can join Bill Simmons in arguing that Bryant is the same selfish egomaniac he’s always been–there are two sides that everyone will take for any of those arguments. However, all argument is quieted when you come to one issue–the passion that Kobe Bryant has for the game and his work ethic to better himself as a player.

There isn’t a single player in the game who spends more hours in the gym, takes more practice shots, or dissects more film than Kobe Bryant. He has three interests in life: basketball, basketball, and family. Bill Simmons once wrote that Bryant made a huge mistake playing for the US Olympic team because he gave away his greatest advantage–his work ethic. LeBron James and Chris Paul started spending more hours in the gym, making better use of practices, and being more purposeful with game tape because they saw that Bryant was preparing for the game before everyone else woke up, prepared while everyone was relaxing, and prepared after everyone called it a night.

Here are a few peeks into Kobe Bryant’s head from this past playoffs:
–  “I just want to win the game, so whatever it takes…”
– “We just have to stay focused, stay poised, and just try to cut them up.”
– “You just have to… prepare. Prepare, prepare, prepare.”
– “The most important thing to me is winning.”
– “What’s there to be happy about? Job’s not finished. Job finished? I don’t think so… I just want it really bad. You put everything you have into the game.”
– (after winning the championship) “It felt like a big old monkey was off my back. It felt so good to be able to have this moment. We tried not to envision it too much… You try not to think about it, just think about playing the game, and for this moment to be here and to reflect back on the season and everything that you’ve been through… it’s the top of the list, man.”

There’s a singular focus in Kobe Bryant’s mind. It’s all surrounded on basketball, on winning.

And despite Bryant’s cold personality, harsh ways, and mean streak,  athletes are drawn to him and look up to him. Carmelo Anthony looked to Bryant as an older brother. Shannon Brown, recently acquired from the Bobcats, gave a sentiment similar to many Lakers–he was inspired to play with Bryant, seeing his determination and his work ethic. LeBron James and Chris Paul developed a much greater work ethic after spending a summer with Bryant.

The reason isn’t because of Bryant’s charisma and his charm. Although I am a Lakers fan, I think I can admit that lots of people do not like Kobe Bryant. He’s obnoxious, arrogant, and just mean, at times. And the reason isn’t because of Bryant’s humor, or his skill, or anything else. The reason is because Kobe Bryant lusts after winning like no one you have ever seen. There is nothing else on his mind, in his heart, or before his eyes than winning and winning and winning. THAT is what draws people. They see in Bryant a goal that is so great that he is willing to sacrifice rest, sleep, fun–just about everything– to attain it. And it is admirable when a person has something not only to live for–but to die for.

Except there’s one little problem. Bryant’s championship rings will get scratched, his trophy will rust, and his name will be forgotten over time. However, those of us who bear the name of Christ, have something far greater, far more desirable, far more… well… worth it all. Jesus establishes the high calling for all Christians: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). Jesus further explains the cost of following Jesus: “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worhty of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39). For anyone who wishes to become a follower of Jesus, He clearly establishes what it takes–give us everyone and everything. That begs the question… who in their right minds would do such a thing? Give up bad habits? Sure. Give up morally evil deeds? Sure. But give up the person I love? the family I love? myself whom I love? Why? Why would I do such a thing? And Jesus gives His answer in both of the previously quoted passages… “for My sake.” You’re not just giving it up, but are giving it up in order to gain Jesus. He doesn’t call us to give up our log of ground beef, but holds before us filet mignon like we’ve never seen. He says to give up that which is relatively valueless for that which is infinitely more valuable. In fact, the greatest things that we can live for in this world–the greatest joys, goals, loves–they are but a shadow of Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus Christ is the greatest thing that we can have in this world, and anything else that we want is ground beef.

Then why is the world not turning to Jesus Christ? Why are people not tossing aside their insignificant joy in order to grab hold of the greatest joy? Because Christ is not that great, from what they can see. Yes, we are all clouded and deluded by sin in our lives, but could there be another reason why those on the outside looking in do not want what Christians have? Maybe it’s because when we come before filet mignon, we are not as joyful as those who are just eating ground beef. Why is Jesus such a burden? Why is He such a chore? Why must we taste of the greatness of Jesus Christ with such a pained expression on our faces?

Our witness is a crucial part of our evangelism. And maintaining a good Christian witness is not about refraining from sin and doing good works for the kingdom of God. Being a good witness for the kingdom of God… it’s all about loving Christ. Do they see in you a joy that is unmatched by any other? Do you love your Bible? Do you love your times with God? Does your heart mourn for the lost?

Bringing it back to my illustration… Kobe Bryant… He has something that is worth more to him than any other. And those around him see it and are drawn to it. Why are we not so attractive to those around us? Why has Jesus been neutered against the “lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life?” (1 John 2:16). I think, oftentimes, we wonder why non-Christians don’t look longingly into our lives as we are looking longingly into theirs. It’s a sad truth of the Christian heart longing for the world–it’s a sad truth of my heart, at times.

And I pray for you and for me–that we would find something in this world worth giving our lives for. In fact, we have found it in Jesus Christ. However, I must also pray for you–and for me– that we would not lose sight of that championship trophy or that crown that awaits us. We won’t have Bill Russell presenting us with the O’Brien basketball championship trophy made of gold and metal. Rather, “we will recieve a crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:4). Remember, and don’t forget, that there is a prize in Jesus Christ that is unmatched by anything this world has ever seen or imagined. Don’t lose heart–don’t grow weary–for we are in the final stretch… and that crown is right before us. Toss everything else aside, clinch your jaws, and do not let up until that crown is on your head and your eyes are filled with the sight of our great God.

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Posted June 16, 2009 by Mitchell J. Kim in Uncategorized

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