As I’m sure many of you have heard, Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from basketball last week. I loved everything about the way he did it. While it’s hard to say there is a “good example” to something so personal, this was a thoughtful and mature way to announce his retirement. Not only does he seem entirely at peace with his decision, he has completely balanced his emotions during a time that is undoubtedly one of the most emotional moments an athlete can experience.
I love his poem to basketball. I love that he wrote to the sport. It was a genuine and sincere way to address his thoughts and emotions about his decision and his life around basketball.
If there’s one thing a young athlete can take away from what Bryant said in his announcement, it can be summed up in his quote on the subject of finding “what’s next”:
“I think that’s a struggle for a lot of athletes, to really find what comes next. I was fortunate enough to start asking myself those questions at a very early age."
"It wasn’t as easy as basketball, I was born to play basketball. I had to really work to find what comes next. And that’s really hard. It was really hard, but that’s what we have to do as athletes."
These comments are critically important for athletes to hear loud and clear. There is a reality beyond athletics that all athletes must realize and that is, there is inevitably something else that’s going to come afterwards.
And while I think logically, many athletes know this, there is still a hope and a delay in really “knowing” and believing it for fear of sacrificing performance or other reasons. When in reality, it’s a balance to strive for. Being the best of the best, yet understanding at some point — no matter how talented or who you are in your sport — after athletic retirement, you have to fill your time somehow and a second career is often the best option.
Bryant has also illustrated that you can still perform at the highest level in sports, but at the same time look beyond your time in the game to explore your next move. Doing this opens the door for opportunities, it doesn’t close them off.
How did Bryant do it? He said that he talked to people and dabbled in a lot of different areas to see what he liked to do and what else he was interested in.
That’s where to start. Athletes don’t have to decide on anything or have the details sorted all at once. But more, they need realize it’s about the process and taking the time and putting forth effort to explore early on in their athletic careers — before they retire.
Regardless of what’s next for Bryant, I hope he finds a path forward that provides him with satisfaction, passion and purpose. It's one of the biggest challenges an athlete will navigate in their career, but to me, it sure looks like he's off to a good start.