This past Tuesday, Kobe Bryant, who has for 19 seasons played the game of basketball with a passion and tenacity few ever have, made history with 6:22 left in the fourth quarter of a 107-102 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Bryant missed a 14-foot fadeaway jumper from the left side. That miss gave Bryant 13,418 career missed field goals, one more than Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek.
As one grows older in life, there are frequent thoughts about regret. Different situations in opportunities throughout life that you passed up because you were too afraid or too nervous of the outcome. Kobe Bryant entered the NBA as a 18-year-old rookie shooting guard, and unlike other players who went straight to the NBA from high school, Kobe began playing meaningful minutes right away. Kobe has been criticized many times over his career for shooting too much, and at times, he probably has. However, anyone who has ever played basketball knows that getting 20-25 shots up in a game is a feat in itself. Many basketball players do not have the mechanics, fundamentals, or confidence to want to be in that position. Basketball players crave the success of wanting to be the leading scorer on their team, and wanting to hit the game winning shot, but they do not want to deal with the blowback of missing 20 shots in a game, or being the person who missed the shot that could have won the game.
As Kobe Bryant stated in a recent interview:
“Yeah, I guess,” Bryant said. “You’ve got to step up and play, man. You can’t worry about criticism. You can’t worry about failure. You really can’t worry about that stuff.
“You’ve got to go out and figure that out and play and do the best you can, and whatever happens, happens. You can’t be held captive by the fear of failure or the fear of what people may say.”
Has he ever been afraid in a game?
Not even for one moment?
Another reporter started to ask a question, and Bryant cut him off and turned back.
“And I don’t mean to sound cavalier when I say that, but never,” Bryant said. “It’s basketball. I’ve practiced and practiced and played so many times. There’s nothing truly to be afraid of, when you think about it.”
This is a great quote from Kobe because as athletes and as individuals who deal with every day situations, we often make up scenarios in our minds based on fear and failure which are often not based in reality. How many times have you dreaded a public speaking engagement, or making a presentation in front of the class, or at a business meeting, and thought you were never going to make it through, and it some instances never showed up because the fear and anxiety were too great?
Kobe is saying that in sports, like in life, if you put in the effort and hard work, you cannot be afraid of the results. Yes, there will be times in your athletic career where you miss a shot or make a crucial turnover, and there will be times in your personal life where you just mess up. The important thing we can learn from Kobe is that you have to keep shooting and you have to keep trying. Kobe Bryant now possesses the dubious statistic of missing the most shots in NBA history. However, he will also be considered one of the greatest NBA players who has ever laced up a pair of sneakers. Kobe has failed many times in his life, but he would have never experienced any of his success and accomplishments if he let fear consume him. Basketball is just a game, but is also something which helps us learn how to perform in our everyday personal lives. Failure is a part of sports just like it is part of life, and Kobe Bryant has showed us that if you are not willing to accept and confront failure, you will most likely never be introduced to success.
Contributing writer Jasen Sousa for Premier Hoops is the author of a number of poetry and fiction books for young people. Jasen has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and is a life-long participant and fan of the game of basketball.