Jeremy Mug

Sunday was a typical day.

I sat in the center of the crowded JINYA Ramen Bar in Roswell with a friend, laughing and talking about life. He’s expecting a daughter any day now.

I joked with him about becoming an old man due to his impending new bundle of joy and responsibility.

The day before happened to be his birthday, making the barb even more appropriate.

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon. It was one of enlightenment. As a newly married man, I’d given children and how much I’d been impacted by what I’d seen would play a role in how I’d raise them.

My friend began opening a few of those thoughts throughout our nearly three-hour conversation. Randomly, he received a text message from his wife asking him to ask me if Kobe Bryant had passed away.

I responded with a quick ‘no’ and began to move forward with our conversation. I decided to check the multiple news outlets that I look to for when I need quick, reliable information. I didn’t even make it to the Internet.

I’d missed dozens of texts confirming the news. I don’t really remember what I said, but I do remember the look on my friend’s face as he saw my reaction. I just remember thinking about his daughters and his wife. I later learned that Bryant’s daughter Gianna Marie Bryant had also lost her life in the helicopter crash.

The drive home from the Roswell area was quick only in that I just remember being in a bit of a haze. This was Kobe Bryant. This was a man I’d watch single handedly take over NBA games since I was in elementary school. Bryant is probably the fiercest competitor I’ve seen in my time following sports.

I’m not a father. I’ve never played organized basketball. Bryant has been a role model for me since I was old enough to digest that his greatness was more than the accolades and points he scored in a game.

If there was ever a template to how to appropriately attack life, it was Kobe Bryant.

You’re out to be the best you can be and making excuses for not looking for ways to improve isn’t good enough.

Nobody is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Kobe lived that as a basketball player, but he also did so once he retired from the sport. His stream of successful ventures outside of basketball has proven that.

As an aspiring father who will one day hopefully have a young daughter, who I suspect will have an interest in sports just because her dad (me) is a sports nut. Kobe and his daughter laid a foundation for me and my future daughter to follow.

I’ve seen the heart-tugging footage of them together in basketball settings. It wove them together.

Little girls look to their fathers. From their fathers they learn how to be treated, they develop their eye for what a man should be.

Kobe is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but to me, he made being a dad cool. When my daughter learns to shoot her first basketball, I’ll make sure she yells ‘Kobe’ as she fades away from the basket as my generation did growing up.

Jeremy Johnson is the sports editor for The Oconee Enterprise. Opinions expressed are those of the writer.

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