Eulogy for Kobe Bryant (excerpt)

NBA hall-of-famer Michael Jordan speaking on MSNBC.

Michael Jordan is a former superstar basketball player who dominated the NBA for more than a decade until his final retirement in 2003, but you probably already know that, even if you’re not a fan. You likely also know that Kobe Bryant was a superstar basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers who died at age 42 in a helicopter crash. Here is an excerpt from Jordan’s eulogy at a memorial service for Bryant held at the Staples Center, the Lakers’ home arena, on February 24, 2020.

Watch it here.


1. Jordan relates that Bryant, in a way, was like any little brother—“always getting in your stuff . . . a nuisance.” But over time, Jordan came to want to be “the best big brother that I could be.” How does Jordan describe the change in his attitude over time? Does his explanation make sense? Why or why not?

2. Several times during his eulogy, Jordan shifts between speaking very generally about human relationships and speaking specifically about his relationship with Bryant. Point out one of those shifts. How effective is Jordan’s rhetorical strategy of moving back and forth between the general and the specific? Why do you think so? Explain your reasoning.

3. LET’S TALK. You may not have been around for all of the last fifty or so years, so you may not know how significantly US social attitudes have changed around adult men displaying tender emotions and crying—especially crying openly in public. It may still be uncommon, but it was almost unheard of in the mid-twentieth century. Michael Jordan, who has famously never hidden his tears, may be responsible for a good part of that change. How do you feel about open expressions of grief or sadness? Does gender have anything to do with it? Are your standards for men different from your standards for women? What do you remember being taught as a child about expressions of emotions? Talk about your responses with a few classmates. Listen attentively, ask clarifying questions when necessary, and enjoy the variety of the responses that you’re likely to hear. (You may want to try out different scenarios in order to explore more deeply. Do your attitudes vary by the emotion being expressed? Is it more ok to cry from grief than to cry from relief? Does the place or event matter? a car? a living room? a bar? a cemetery?)

4. LET’S WRITE. Because we have so many cherished celebrities in public life, it is inevitable that each year, we lose some to death. These losses are painful, but, as you can see in Michael Jordan’s eulogy for Kobe Bryant, a eulogy can be a balm for both the speaker and the audience. Think of a public figure whose death touched or saddened you, and imagine that you could give a eulogy for them at their funeral or memorial service. Write the eulogy as a speech to be read aloud.

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