I was standing in my stairwell headed down the stairs when my husband’s cell phone rang. It was our youngest son calling from college mid afternoon that Sunday. I could overhear the conversation. My son was calling to talk about something that surely was one of those internet hoaxes  – you know the ones that say, “So and so celebrity has died.” We thought that must be the case in this instance as well. I started googling. The first hit that came up was TMZ. Ok, probably a hoax since I didn’t perceive them to be a credible news source and not much else was coming up. I waited a bit and kept googling. Social media lit up. Later it was confirmed that Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven other people had been killed in a helicopter accident.

Today marks the 9 month anniversary of that accident, and for me, what seemed to be the start of a chaotic, messy year.

Ironically, a week later, I happened to be looking for something and came across a paper that my son had written for English class about six years earlier when he was in middle school. He wrote:

Back and forth the game went, like a war, and Kobe was the general in command. Kobe made a clutch shot with 11 seconds left in the game to put the Lakers on top 72 – 71.” Basketball is an electrifying game where the are many thrilling moments. Many players stand out –  Chris Paul, Derek Rose, Dwight Howard, and Kobe.”

My son called the players by their first and last name, except Kobe. No last name needed. I guess my son thought everyone would know Kobe.

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you might remember that I write about sports and leadership and how they mix with some regularity. My family is a big sports family and it doesn’t really matter the sport. We love them all. And yet, this accident impacted my son greatly. This man’s life impacted my son. Kobe was his hero – in his mind, an electrifying player who was the general in command.

Phoenix Suns rookie, Devin Booker, was 19 when he played the retiring Kobe Bryant – and my son is 19 now. When that game was over, Devin got a pair of signed shoes from Kobe on which Kobe included a simple message: “Be legendary.”

When I think about being legendary, I think about InnerWill’s organizational value of Significance:

  • Creating a lasting positive impact
  • Develop self and others
  • Make a difference
  • Lead with purpose and authenticity

Those are ways that we can “be legendary.” In this year that has been topsy-turvy, there has been time to finish my coaching certification, to read books I may not have gotten to read, develop some new content for virtual learning, and connect with people I may not have gotten to connect with. I’ve been able to continue that work on developing myself.

I’ve gotten to work on some new things with some new people and have been able to make a difference. I’m continuing to work on my leadership and leaning into to my purpose. We don’t have to be famous to have a lasting impact or to be legendary.

Recently I received an email response back from someone, and there was a line in there that said, “Your reminder was fuel for the fight.”

Let’s keep reminding each other, encouraging each other, and supporting each other. How can you “be legendary?”


“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so they can be great in whatever they want to do.”

– Kobe Bryant


Wendy Berenson

Wendy Berenson

Wendy brings over 20 years of expertise in training and development, facilitation, and Human Resources to the InnerWill team and the clients we serve. She has a passion for helping leaders develop a culture of engaging employee experiences and has a unique knack for identifying the strengths of others and helping them reach their highest potential.

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