Why We Love Kobe Bryant: He Took the Shot
My tribute to one of the greatest and most beloved players ever.
Many professional athletes are admired, praised, and cheered by the public for their inspiring athletic prowess. We want to soar like them, but the closest we can get is buying their jerseys, teeth whiteners, and video games. We drink their paid-endorsed energy drinks, eat their paid-endorsed fast food, and get in loud arguments with friends about how necessary they are to the team’s success.
Sadly, most of these famous athletes are as temporary as snowmen, adored during their season, but just a fond memory when they melt away from the sport and are replaced the next season by a newer, younger, springier model.
But some athletes are so special that they represent more than their athletic achievements. They inspire not just admiration, but genuine affection—maybe even love.
Kobe Bryant was such an athlete. He was such a man.
Many other tributes will discuss his impressive list of basketball accolades, awards, and statistics. You can go to Wikipedia if you’re interested. Or a sports bar. There’s only one Kobe statistic that fascinates me. Kobe twice led the NBA in scoring and in 2006 he scored 81 points in a single game, putting him right behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game.
But those aren’t the stats I’m interested in.
This is: Kobe Bryant missed the most career field goals in NBA history. He missed 14,481 times.
To me, that statistic is the foundation of his greatness as an athlete—and one of the reasons our affection for the man transcends our admiration for the athlete.
Let me explain: Some people—not just athletes—are motivated in life by the fear of losing. They strive and hustle and push because they don’t want to fail. That fear of failure is often rooted in anxiety about how they will look to others. They see themselves only as they are reflected in others’ eyes.
However, the great ones are driven not to win, but to exceed their own expectations. The goal is to strive to reach one’s fullest potential—and sometimes push beyond what even they imagined that potential might be. Winning is not the goal, it’s a happy by-product.
Kobe Bryant holds the record for most missed shots in NBA history. To some that’s a bad thing. To me, it means he wasn’t intimidated by missing, by losing, by failure. He didn’t hesitate by worrying, “What if I miss? What will the coaches think? The team? The fans?” He acted like the ultimate competitor: he took the shot.
To take the shot is to embrace failure and success at the same time. To miss so much and yet feel confident enough to shoot again and again embodies the best qualities of human beings: to imagine something beyond what is, beyond what you’ve ever been able to do, and to strive to make that a reality, no matter how many times you fail.
We love Kobe because he wasn’t afraid to take the shot. As an athlete. As a community member. As a parent. As a man.