Sounding more like Ayn Rand than the third-greatest scorer in NBA history, retired Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant penned a letter to his 17-year-old self, telling him to give relatives tools and opportunities rather than just showering them with money and gifts.
In the somewhat bizarre, somewhat refreshing composition, Bryant warns his younger self to “figure out a way to invest in the future” of his family and friends.
“So you buy them a car, a big house, pay all of their bills. You want them to live a beautiful, comfortable life, right? But the day will come when you realize that as much as you believed you were doing the right thing, you were actually holding them back,” the five-time NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, and two-time Olympic gold medalist cautions.
Bryant’s piece may stem as much from emotional as intellectual reasons. While no evidence of Kobe reading The Virtue of Selfishness exists, a well-documented spat with his parents does. Mother and father attended neither the 2008 NBA MVP’s wedding nor his farewell game. The Black Mamba pursued a legal grievance against his mom three years ago when she attempted to sell memorabilia of which her son claimed ownership. The settlement resulted in Bryant’s parents giving him an apology in writing.
In the letter that appears in The Players Tribune, Bryant instructs his teenage self to use his wealth to help educate his relatives, help them attain job interviews, and help them find their own way in life. Given Bryant’s net worth of an estimated $320 million, he certainly possesses the resources to spoil his parents, kids, and second cousins twice removed if he chose to do so.
The 37-year-old father of two (and expecting a third) explains that although it makes you feel good to give relatives an easy life filled with all the lavish accoutrements, you end up making their lives miserable.
“You will come to understand that you were taking care of them because it made YOU feel good, it made YOU happy to see them smiling and without a care in the world — and that was extremely selfish of you,” Kobe explains to Kobe. “While you were feeling satisfied with yourself, you were slowly eating away at their own dreams and ambitions. You were adding material things to their lives, but subtracting the most precious gifts of all: independence and growth.”
Bryant, who announced his retirement on the site, serves as the editorial director for the Players’ Tribune. He put both money and work into the website, contributing more articles than any other athlete and serving as a significant investor.
“I’m writing you now so that you can begin this process immediately,” Bryant writes, “and so that you don’t have to deal with the hurt and struggle of weaning them off of the addiction that you facilitated. That addiction only leads to anger, resentment, and jealousy from everybody involved, including yourself.”