Where were you and what were you doing when news that basketball legend Kobe Bryant had died in a horrific helicopter crash reached you? I was in a meeting of Regional Conference presidents when someone broke the news. A collective gasp was followed by an eerie hush as we tried to reconcile ourselves to the untimely and tragic passing of Bryant, which sent shock waves not just around the United States of America but around the world.

Kobe Bryant, the 41-year-old iconic Los Angeles Lakers star who retired with dignity from professional basketball four years ago, was a larger than life figure whose prowess on the court defined basketball for a generation. He burst onto the scene as a high school basketball phenom who entered the NBA at 17 and played for a score of years for one team, dominating the game with his tenacity and competency.  He scored 81 points in one game and 60 points in his last game, retiring from the NBA in glory.  

Bryant has been praised for his admirable work ethic, his insatiable drive, his refusal to settle for mediocrity, and his sense of destiny. He left an example for all races, age groups, and walks of life.

Old and young alike have been trying to make sense of the accident that claimed the life of Kobe Bryant and 8 others, including his 13-year-old daughter, who he was coaching and mentoring in the game that he epitomized. Kobe was a hero to countless youth and young adults, including many who play in the Christian Fellowship League of the Lake Region Conference. Worldwide, people are reeling and groping about in search of answers and meaning regarding the tragedy.  

What may we take away or learn from the utterly devastating death of Kobe Bryant? And how may we honor Kobe’s life and legacy? First, we may learn that family matters. Pictures of the Kobe family evoke a medley of warm feelings. Kobe has been lauded as a family man who loved his wife and adored his four daughters. He was on his way to his daughter’s basketball game when tragedy struck. To be sure, he was not perfect as a family man, but the commitment he had to his family is beyond reproach.

Kobe also demonstrated that forgiveness matters. Without question, Kobe had issues with his father and others. Yet, Kobe came to experience the joy of forgiveness, reconciling with his father and experiencing deeper relationships with significant others as he matured.

Thirdly, Kobe knew that faith matters. Reports are that Kobe and his daughter stopped by a church for communion before they boarded the helicopter that fateful Sunday morning. Cynics have noted the incongruity of Kobe leaving church and heading straight to his death as proof that serving God does not benefit believers. The fact is that Christianity does not inoculate us from the tragedies and paradoxes of life.

Family, forgiveness, and faith are three elements of the legacy of Kobe Bryant. As we mourn  his passing, let us also reflect on our own life and legacy.   More significantly, let us commit to living in ways that impact others for good and bring glory to God.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And  he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:4, 5).

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

Yours in the blessed hope,

R. Clifford Jones


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