A nation building lesson from Kobe

In the end of 1990s, the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan was at their peak, dominating and winning championships in NBA. That was when I started to play and got interested in basketball, but Michael Jordan was retiring during that period. Although he was one of the greatest basketball players in the world, he wasn’t the one that I paid much attention to. During the time when I was so fascinated with basketball, Kobe Bryant was the inspirational one to my friends and I. We grew up watching his whole career in the NBA.

As I was writing to complete my bi-weekly article two weeks ago, it was devastating to receive news from friends from my basketball circle that the inspirational Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash.

I may have not met him before, I would have never imagined that I would have the opportunity to meet him ever as well. But he remained as an inspirational person to me, not only on the basketball court, but his character of developing himself as well as advocating for sports among youth and women.

He won five championships, was an 18-time All-Star, and countless NBA records in history. And he is the one and only basketball player who has won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Having achieved such a high stature, in the basketball world, among sports lovers, and to people who might not be interested in sports at all; he played a major influence throughout the world. 

Politicians have a lot to learn from Kobe.

As politicians, it is natural to contest in the general elections to win. Nobody wants to lose in any contest that we participate in. But although general elections are important to politicians, we should not make it a priority; in which it is a priority to many. Most of the political parties and politicians first goal is to win in the elections, and then only plan on how to build the nation. Which I think the mentality and the priority should be changed. We must first have our ideas of developing our nation, then as we advocate for better policies, ultimately, we will be given the victory in the elections.

If basketball is a nation, Kobe has his idea on how to build his ‘nation’, he makes sure he understands his ‘nation’, gets to know the people across his ‘nation’. Winning championships may be certainly a goal for him, but he had used the influences he won from the championships to execute his ‘nation building’ ideas to make it a reality.

Many typical NBA players who retired from professional basketball will probably continue to earn from the fame that they have built, but it is different for Kobe.

At the end of his professional basketball career, he went back to the court to inspire and teach even more players to develop their successes, and that is what he does to build his ‘nation’.

If he is there only to win championships, he wouldn’t have continued his advocacy after he retired professionally. Similarly to politicians, if one has real concerns and is true to his words of building the nation, the priority is not about winning elections then. Building a nation is not only reserved for the winners, everyone and anyone can play their role in it.

There are numerous lessons and experiences that we can learn from Kobe, but specifically for politicians, I think it is his mentality of building his ‘nation’, his love and loyalty for his ‘nation’.

No. 24 was the jersey number that I will take lesson from; coincidentally N24 was the seat that I contested in 2018.

His first phase of success ended in 2016 when he retired as a professional player from NBA. His second phase of life is just beginning and was poised for even more success. I was expecting to learn even more from him. It is such a waste that his life has to be ended. Rest in Peace, Kobe, Gianna and to all others who were on board the helicopter.

This article is published in Kwong Wah Yit Poh in Chinese dated 11 February 2020.