Bigger Than Basketball

For The Wall Street Journal’s Future View about the legacy Kobe Bryant left behind.

A torn notebook page crumbled into a ball in my right palm, I flicked my wrist toward the bin and — whispering “Kobe!” — flawlessly made the shot as my fellow classmates quietly chuckled, and my English teacher failed to notice. Perfect 3-pointer.

Kobe Bryant drives past Quincy Pondexter during an NBA game in Los Angeles, Jan. 2, 2014.
Kobe Bryant drives past Quincy Pondexter during an NBA game in Los Angeles, Jan. 2, 2014. (MARK RALSTON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES)

It’s often said that sports have the power to break down barriers, but what does that mean? Well, perhaps I can explain. After immigrating from Vietnam with a limited vocabulary but an enthusiasm for new, enriching experiences, it was discussing basketball and Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers that gave me an outlet to meet new people and make a seamless transition into American society.

It was the simple yet meaningful bonds forged while watching Bryant thrash the Los Angeles Clippers that laid the groundwork for the unlikely friendship between a scrawny Vietnamese boy and a group of suburban American teens. From there I’ve been able to build, connecting with people over shared interests and ideas, often far beyond basketball.

More than a sports and cultural icon, Kobe was for me the puzzle piece that connected my childhood in Vietnam to my future in America. For that, I am extremely grateful.

Originally published at www.wsj.com on February 4, 2020.

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studying politics, philosphy, & economics + art history at Swarthmore College

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