The late, great Kobe Bryant and his stunning poem: Love you always.

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A french exit is a departure without a farewell or a goodbye.

It’s showing up at a social gathering for a drink or two, a good laugh, a story, perhaps just enough time to breath life into the party before making your escape, and then when the evening is at its loudest, quietly exiting through the back door without so much as a wave goodbye.

That’s what Kobe Bryant’s death feels like, a french exit.

Yesterday (January 26, 2020), hundreds of thousands of young basketball players and sports lovers across the planet felt their hearts break as one of the greatest athletes to ever live passed on with his daughter and seven other passengers.

We watched Kobe play basketball and change the game as we know it. But, more so, we watched him live with tenacity, with fury, with an unparalleled hustle.

I’ve found in sports, it’s the latter that shapes both young players and sport’s fans alike — not sitting in awe as greats like Kobe sink yet another game-winner from behind the arch — but witnessing these greats exist.

While few of us will ever be brilliant enough as athletes to hunt like a jaguar on the same court that Bryant was once king, all of us can work at our craft with the same level of maddening discipline, all of us can compete as if each of life’s plays is our last and all of us can live with reckless abandon.

Greats like Kobe Bryant don’t exist to teach us to play basketball, they exist to teach us how to live.

Here’s a rather stunning poem he wrote when he was nearing retirement four years back…

Dear Basketball,

From the moment

I started rolling my dad’s tube socks

And shooting imaginary

Game-winning shots

In the Great Western Forum

I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all -

From my mind & body

To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy

Deeply in love with you

I never saw the end of the tunnel.

I only saw myself

Running out of one.

And so I ran.

I ran up and down every court

After every loose ball for you.

You asked for my hustle

I gave you my heart

Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt

Not because challenge called me

But because YOU called me.

I did everything for YOU

Because that’s what you do

When someone makes you feel as

Alive as you’ve made me feel.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream

And I’ll always love you for it.

But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.

This season is all I have left to give.

My heart can take the pounding

My mind can handle the grind

But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.

I’m ready to let you go.

I want you to know now

So we both can savor every moment we have left together.

The good and the bad.

We have given each other

All that we have.

And we both know, no matter what I do next

I’ll always be that kid

With the rolled up socks

Garbage can in the corner

:05 seconds on the clockBall in my hands.

5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always,

Kobe.

Yesterday,

A god fell from the sky and with his falling, he reminded the world how to live.

By Cole Schafer (but mostly Kobe Bryant).

I run a newsletter. It’s called Chasing Hemingway. It’s about writing and life and how the two exist so wonderfully together.

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I write pretty words and sometimes sell things. https://coleschafer.com/subscribe

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