The end of the current NBA season will also see the conclusion of the career of Kobe Bryant as he retires after 20 years. He has spent his entire career playing for the LA Lakers and has been widely regarded as one of the most competitive and intense players of all time. Kobe was always able to back it up on the court and finishes his career with five championships, multiple awards, and as the third all-time leading scorer. He hasn’t always been well-received for a number of different reasons—some of them for his exploits off the court as much as on.
I heard an interview with Kobe last week where he was asked about the reception he is now receiving from opposing crowds and teams. With his career winding down, they are showing great appreciation for his spectacular play when that wasn’t always the case. He was asked specifically about being a villain to many fans for the past 20 years and how he handles now being treated as a hero. He essentially answered by saying we all are both the hero and the villain. It all depends on the individual person’s perspective.
That’s a powerful statement to meditate on. I can definitely see how it applies to athletics—the home team is going to celebrate your competitiveness while the opposition won’t have the same appreciation. I can see how it happens in leadership as well when certain tough decisions may benefit those who celebrate and be harder on those who might vilify you. It certainly happens in parenting depending on the circumstances and the tone of the conversation and whether discipline is involved.
Can we accept playing both roles depending on the situation? I will confess I always want to be a hero, but that aspiration doesn’t always help me when making hard choices. I don’t want to intentionally be a villain, but there are going to be times when we have to learn to be okay with not saving the day.