Death, Taxes, and Kobe Bryant

Perhaps one of the more pertinent expressions to adulthood is one that seems even more pertinent this time of year: “In this world nothing can be certain, except death and taxes.” As we enter tax season, we become painfully aware of how true this is. The inevitability of having to go through hundreds of numbers, receipts, statements—it is reminiscent of a certain type of stress best associated with school projects. This process has such a negative association with the general public, that we connect taxes with the most profound tragedy, death.

Two weeks ago, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were lost in a horrific helicopter accident about a fifteen minute drive from EAFA’s offices. In fact, I used to drive past the crash site every day commuting to work in Malibu. Proximity aside, the death of Kobe had a massive impact on me, the greater Los Angeles area, and truly, much of the world.

To me, Kobe’s lasting legacy will forever be his consistency and commitment to everything he did. He was omnipresent in our lives, always waiting around the bend if not right before us. Even those who despised Kobe on the court feared his ability. As a Lakers fan, I have to admit I took this for granted. For 20 years, he was there. Whether he was winning, losing, injured, or healthy, I could turn on my TV and see Kobe Bryant drawing the attention of the masses in a way very few ever have.       

As we are reminded of the fragility of life and certainty of death, the ominous nature of tax season rears its ugly head this time of year. The idea of taxes themselves are incredibly polarizing for a myriad of reasons—not dissimilar to how Kobe Bryant was talked about in life. Detractors of the star would point to his inefficiency and lack of leadership, reminiscent of how those opposed to heavy taxation criticize our leadership for using tax money inefficiently.

Behind this vilified caricature of taxes, there is the reality of necessity. Not all taxes may be used in the most effective manner, but our society relies on them all the same. For schools, for roads, even to pay for policies we may or may not agree with. The process of paying taxes forces us to keep track of our income, spending, and better yet, charitable donations. It holds us accountable (pun intended) in a binding way that very few commitments in life do. Again, I draw a comparison to Kobe here, as he was often criticized for making his teammates do extra work they may not have wanted to do.

So for these next couple of months, when you’re compiling your 1099s, paystubs, and receipts, try to appreciate the therapeutic simplicity of these tasks. Filling out tax forms can be a free throw-like endeavor, one that can surprise you with a return, a reward for your efforts. Death and taxes may be a couple of life’s certainties, yet they seem to surprise us all the same. It is the life and successes in between that define our existence. Get your taxes done early, so you can relax through the peak of the basketball season.

“Those times when you get up early, those times when you stay up late, when you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway…that is actually the dream.”

– Kobe Bryant

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Death, Taxes, and Kobe Bryant
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