In case you missed it, professional basketball's Kobe Bryant played his last game this week (April 13, 2016). Kobe's been in decline from a skill perspective for a couple of years - and it was time for him to go.
One of the things that made Kobe unique was the fact that he was an unapologetic "gunner". He never met a shot he didn't like or would take and he was often portrayed as an over-aggressive individual and consistently bad teammate.
But if there's one thing that Kobe always did well, it was staying true to who he was - without remorse or apology. He was a shooter/scorer first and foremost. That's why what happened in his last game is interesting from a talent perspective. More on Kobe's last game and him not giving a #### from Rolling Stone:
Sports superstars are image conscious almost to a fault, and basketball players perhaps most of all, because they're completely exposed on the court. Unlike other athletes, they can't hide behind pads or helmets.
So they carefully cultivate a public persona, create a character for the cameras. This can take the form of a scrubbed spotlessness, a kind of high-sheen Dudley Do-Righteousness (Michael Jordan, Steph Curry), or it can angle toward darker anti-heroism (Allen Iverson, Russell Westbrook), but either way it is manifestly – and sometimes exhaustively – conscious.
These labels are subject to change, especially once a player's career is over, but we've rarely seen a star's image evolve as steadily and surely as Kobe Bryant's. At this point, one of Kobe's most appealing qualities is that he simply doesn't give a f**k, but the truth is, he never has, and it's always been this way, no matter how it's been packaged.
Bryant's game hasn't so much lost focus as it's been twisted into something worn but nevertheless deadly. And nothing embodies that quite like as his final game against the Utah Jazz.
Like a notched and dented broadsword, a record played so often you know where every skip and scratch is, an action figure with joints so worn he can no longer really stand, Kobe's all-shooting, all-clutch finale was familiar and everyone at Staples Center loved it. He attempted 50 shots and scored 60 points, the most this NBA season, making him the oldest player to score 60, the most by any player in their final game. And oh yeah, he pulled the Lakers back into it and got the win.
It's a striking ending for a medium where we're accustomed to winning, but it's true to life, and it's true to the end Kobe wrote for himself. The Lakers won, but it doesn't extend the season, doesn't give Kobe another chapter. The most any of us should wish for is to go down gunning and that's precisely what Kobe did. And he gave zero f**ks whilst doing so. Well done, Master Mamba.
Here's what this means for you and I. When the end comes at your company - whether you're voluntarily leaving or you've impacted by a reorganization that allows you to stay in your role for a month or two - WE SHOULD GO DOWN SHOOTING AND SWINGING. That doesn't have to be negative.
Your role in your final days - if you want to be remembered as a talented person - is to go down shooting like Kobe. Whatever your special skills are, you should use them as much as possible in your final days. Good at pressuring people to do things they don't want to do? Do more of that. Good at blowing people up so the greater good in your organization is served? More please. Good at making your team feel good about themselves and full of positive self-esteem? Don't stop. Do more of it.
It's easy to coast and mail it in when you're leaving your company. But all that does is remind people that you're average - even when you're not.
Kobe - long in the tooth and without much physical skill to speak of - decided to go out in a Blaze of Glory with what he does best - taking shots that people who care what others think wouldn't take in a million years. As a result, we'll remember him forever as someone who was special. The final exclamation point in his career carries with it a good bit of recency effect - wiping out the impact of an awful performance year for Bryant.
So the next time you're leaving a company - remember Kobe. Go out doing more of what made you special of times in your final days.
Depending on what that skill is, people might not be happy - but they'll be forced to give you your due for what made you unique.
Just like Kobe.