Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, chances are you’ve heard the name “[Kobe Bryant](http://espn.go.com/nba/player/_/id/110)” or “Black Mamba” buzzing in the media recently. The 37-year-old legend [hung up his jersey](http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25553964/watch-kobe-bryant-addresses-lakers-fans-after-scoring-60-in-last-game) April 13th, after playing in the final game of his 20-year career with the LA Lakers.
While witnessing Kobe play through the final few games of his career, I realized there is a lot that can be learned from The Mamba outside the game of basketball. Since many of us watch sports as entertainment, it is easy to overlook the fact that we are witnessing these players’ professional careers on a public stage. And from practice, to playoff game, to press conference, these athletes face similar challenges in their careers just as we do every day.
Here are four take-aways from Kobe’s career that can help us in our own:
#### R-E-S-P-E-C-T (cue Aretha Franklin)
Let’s face it, when you’re a famous NBA all-star, it’s natural to [gain widespread respect from fans and fellow players](http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/25553964/watch-kobe-bryant-addresses-lakers-fans-after-scoring-60-in-last-game) based on your accomplishments. However, there’s a difference between gaining respect because of your title versus earning respect for your actions and character. Over the years, Kobe’s team members have worked harder for him because he is respected as role model, rather than hierarchical superior. Now, I’m sure not EVERYONE has the utmost respect for Kobe Bryant, the person, but the guys in his locker room did. And that’s ultimately what mattered most.
Kobe is looked at as having one of the greatest careers in basketball history. Much of that can be credited to the fact that all 20 years of his NBA career were with the same organization—the Los Angeles Lakers. Twenty years is a long time to stay with one organization, especially considering the modern day transiency of the professional world. Kobe shows us that loyalty and longevity may include ups and downs in success, as well as adjusting to an evolving team along the way, but the immensity of what is built in the end, makes it all worth it.
#### When to pass and when to shoot
Kobe’s 60-point performance in his final game was by no means a career high, or even a rarity. Does that mean he controlled every game he played in? Absolutely not. Although it’s great to have a team to lean on, it’s also necessary to keep in mind that there will be times you need to pull more than your own weight. Everyone has specific duties that come with their job title, but you need to be okay with going the extra mile when your team needs it. The best team members can recognize when to pass and when to shoot.
#### Perspective—see challenge as an opportunity
It’s all about your outlook. When Shaq left LA for Miami in 2004, Kobe probably considered his options. But after a rough few years following, Kobe rallied his new team back to greatness, winning back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010 and being named Finals MVP both years (something he never accomplished with Shaq). When you hit an unexpected bump in the road, see it as a challenge and an opportunity to grow as a team, as well as individually. Having a positive outlook leads to a positive outcome.
Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise. – Kobe Bryant
Have you ever found unexpected inspiration from watching professional athletes? Share with us in the comment section below.