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Lessons Learned From The Tragic Loss Of Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Washington Wizards in the first half at Verizon Center on December 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As I woke up the past few days I kept having this thought that even though I get up – Kobe Bryant will not wake up today or tomorrow or ever again.

Yet, another sobering realization as this tragic event continues to unfold. I don’t want to appear morbid and uncaring, I’m certainly not that way, but mourning death hits us all at different times and in different ways.

It certainly has hit me in ways I did not expect.

In trying to wrap my brain around the sadness of all of this, my mind can’t help but flood back to a time when I was coaching high school football and had a player I coached died right before my eyes of a similar type of accident.

It happened at the conclusion of summer football practice, in the parking lot of the school, by kids doing stupid things, and right after this player had briefly spoken words of encouragement to our team about the upcoming season.

At that time and today I ask myself, why does it take tragic loss for us to realize the real value and priority of life. Why can’t we remember these things each day? Why can’t we live every moment to it’s fullest? Why can’t we say and do kind things always?

I’m not sure who said this the other day about Kobe, it was a former teammate, but he said, “The tragedy of this is Kobe was at peace, he was finally able to focus on his family and in the moment of his death, specifically he was able to focus on his daughter.”

Kobe was now at a point when he could start enjoying life and what really mattered, but it was too late.

In the sports world, Kobe was known for his relentless pursuit of excellence, we admired him, respected him, and many hoped to be him. He won championships, awards and admiration from millions around the world, I would bet he would give it all up to have been able to wake up just one more day and see his family, breath the air, hug his wife, shoot a basketball and just be alive.

I also, have to wonder in his relentless pursuit of greatness, what did he have to sacrifice for his fame? What part of his personal life suffered in his quest of championships and basketball immortality?

I would say his greatest sacrifice was time, The only real thing we have to give is our time. Time away from the things that really matter. Time away from events, moments and people that matter most. Isn’t that what we all do, engage our time on pursuits that we feel are important, or will give us satisfaction and even fame and notoriety.

I believe that if faced with our death and having one more day alive, to hug, kiss and breathe the good things in life we would do it in a second.

Unfortunately, we are not faced on a day to day basis with such a life correcting choice. Our days often are rather mundane and even ordinary. What would happen if we could be more proactive about seizing each day with more purpose?  What if we slowed down and engaged in more meaningful conversation and relationship building?  What if we looked more to serve others and forget ourselves?

Wouldn’t the world be so much of a better place?  Why could we not do this without having to have tragedy remind us? Why not take back the precious time we have and put it to much better use.

In his speech, my football player said literally moments before he died, “I don’t care what grade you are in, what position that you play, or where you are on the depth chart, if you will give your best effort wherever you are we will be unstoppable.”

Truer words have never been spoken. My player did live his life with that motto, and he must have known his time on Earth would be short because he used the time in his previous 18 years of life wisely.

He was an organ donor and each of his vital organs gave life to those who would have died. He always looked for opportunities to help others and lift them up. He was not afraid to share words that might encourage others.

I submit that if we – in our everyday lives – without having a tragedy remind us to get back the precious time we have and use it for a much better purpose.

Our days will have more meaning, the hugs we give and the kisses we share will have greater meaning.

Scott Mitchell hosts the Helmets Off podcast featuring conversations about football and life. Subscribe wherever you find podcasts or on the KSL Sports app.