Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan isn’t your common military installation. It’s 6 square miles of luxury smack dab in the heart of a nation that’s been at conflict for a millenia. In June of 2010, I was there for a day as I leapt frog towards the States. Every soldier gets a week of R&R mid-deployment—a silly protocol in my opinion—however, at this point in my career I hadn’t been home since September ‘08. This is part of my construct, I treat undertakings as if they’re all or nothing, but the Army left me no option. “Go see your family, you’ve earned this time.”
The creature comfort that spoke most to me at BAF was the dining facilities. Adorned with flat screen televisions and bottomless offerings of hot chow it was a far cry from the outfittings of COP Charkh (Google it). Our dwellings deeper in-theater lacked running water, let alone cable.
On the morning of the 18th, as the sun brought the promise of a punishing heat in the thick of fighting season, I found my way to one of the aforementioned DFACs and sat down aiming to engage in a marathon brunch. Surviving the previous eight months on pre-packaged meals and the errant goat gifted to us by locals had brought forth a hunger that I was beyond ready to indulge. Unbeknownst to me, a world away, Game 7 of the NBA Finals was about to tip-off.
Kobe Bryant made mistakes. For one, his ego cost him the most dominant Center in the history of basketball. And away from the hardwood, as much as his fans would like to forget, he, at a minimum, stepped out on his marriage.
Heavy is the head, they say. Though, I am not an apologist for the personal failings of an idol. Whether or not his transgressions (when not wearing a Lakers jersey) are inexpiable is a case to have been or to be considered by Kobe Bryant, his wife, and perhaps God. Not me.
Time is kept, at an international level, by the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, UK. No more hallowed ground exists in the realm of astronomy, navigation, and chronology. All time zones are tributaries of this site’s significance. The greater London location does not house, however, a mint. Even in the coffers of nobles, there is no more time to be squirrelled away.
Our concept of time is one of a stable and static element that behaves as a scaffolding of the modern world. Nevertheless, it cannot be that to the philosopher. Scrutinized by an abstract mind, it exists as a byproduct of the limited human aperture. And, from a different vantage ground, one perhaps inaccessible to us, maybe something else altogether.
That Friday morning I was piling pancakes in Afghanistan, it was still a balmy Thursday evening outside the Staples Center in LA. To my delight, as I balanced my rifle on its bipod muzzle down, I saw the second half of Game 7 beginning on the TV above my table.
This was the last time Kobe Bryant would play in the NBA Finals. Upon his exit from the league in 2016, his contribution to the game is regarded as invaluable in that it stands free of measure. The Mamba Mentality was born from his inextinguishable competitive nature. In every moment available he exuded a calm, scary confidence that was a derivitive of his work ethic. His preparedness was his weapon of choice. He had no time for detractors. Kobe purged the frail from his pathway and haunted foes with a ferocity never before seen in American sports. Where Muhammed Ali was vocal in his self-assuredness, Kobe was a quiet killer. Like venom.
The day I’m writing this is the one year anniversary of his passing. Vanessa, his wife, asked the NBA to withhold any tributes for him. Which is understandable, she’s lived the heartache. Her days begin and end with a vacancy that must feel like the universe has rung hollow.
Not that it matters but I hate helicopters. They’re fucking deathtraps. More than once down range I found myself aboard a Chinook (a dual-rotor troop transport vehicle made of paper mache) being riddled with AK rounds. I’d rather walk.
As the world mourned, a report surfaced that pains my soul to this day. It was said that Kobe chose to utilize a private flight service not because his status deemed it so, but because he was trying to commute in a manner that would afford him more time with his daughters.
What does this have to do with fitness? Well, it happens to be the nemesis of chronic illness. It happens to be the peerless institution at one’s disposal if you’re meaning to earn more time.
So now, and in the method of the Mamba, do with your life what you would if you knew you were in a race against time. Because you are.
As if it’s all or nothing.