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Odegbami: Kobe Bryant – a Humble Tribute

Odegbami: Kobe Bryant – a Humble Tribute

In the past few weeks I have had to ask myself some very pertinent questions about life, the answer to which is to be humble, grateful and appreciative of the little things in life, particularly the little time we all have to spend here on earth, not by right (for I have none) but by unmerited, incomprehensible benevolence of the Creator of all things.

This past week I have watched with humility the unprecedented outpouring of grief as well as of tributes at the passing away of an iconic athlete, one of the greatest basketball players that ever played the game, a man whose reputation transcends the field of sport where he reigned supreme.

This global reaction at the death of an African-American brother, Kobe Bryant, is not because he died, as death is an inevitability for all homo sapiens and ‘will come when it will come’, but because of how well he lived and how much he impacted the world in various uncommon ways. Imperfect as he was in many ways, the stories of his contributions to making a difference in the world have been truly inspiring and revealing.

I started to think that It is the measure of the difference we make to our world whilst we are alive that becomes the measure of the world’s reaction when we die.

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The Late Kobe Bryant

I got to really know Kobe Bryant after he died, and I am left with the feeling that even in prematurely exiting the world at only 41, those years were packed to the brim with incredible feats of challenges, triumphs and successes as a result of determination, hard work, commitment, and never giving up on anything. He lived and experienced a full and dramatic life till the very end.

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It may be unkind to think that way, but even the circumstances of his death, had to be octane ‘drama’. He had his 13-year old daughter with him when they both died, along with 7 others in a helicopter crash on a hill side outside Los Angeles where he lived and played out his entire professional basketball career, amassing an almost unprecedented legion of trophies and personal awards.

He died leaving behind questions that may never be answered: why did he choose to fly on a day when the weather was so bad that other flights were grounded? What happened to a twin-engine helicopter reputed to be one of the most sophisticated, safest and most reliable in the world? Questions without answers!

His death touched me as if I knew him personally. That’s how it also touched most people around the world. He was a great man and a super athlete.

His death, if nothing else, contains several messages to be delivered to the world: reminder of the fragility of life; our short mortality; and our responsibility to make a positive impact on our family, community, environment and the world whilst we are alive; and a reminder that the privilege and opportunity to do anything before the knell summons us ‘to heaven or to hell’ are not earned but gifted to us by the elements.

Kobe Bryant was heaven’s messenger to the world. He came, he saw and he left an indelible mark in earth.

Fare thee well, Kobe, farewell!

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Late Chief Emiola Adeshina

My first Car – a Little Tribute to Chief Emiola Adesina!

The first car I ever owned in my life was a Honda Civic, 2-door, sports car.

It was Tomato-red in colour, sexy, beautiful.

It looked like it was made specially for me when I drove it around Lagos and Ibadan, during my National Youth Service year when it came into my life.

This is how it happened.

It was one morning, early in 1977.

I was a Youth Corper serving in Oyo State.

I had been to the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada and returned. I had become a regular member of the Green Eagles creating waves around the continent. I had been a part of the great Shooting Stars FC that won Nigeria’s first continental club football championship, the Africa Cup Winners Cup.

In short, by January of 1977, I was on the ascendancy as a major football superstar in Africa.

That morning I went for training at the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan where Shooting Stars had resumed training after their historic victory in December of 1976.

I was a very young, and very famous at the time after that feat. Late Chief Olalekan Salami, my mentor and Chairman of Shooting Stars FC was standing next to this sports car in front of the main entrance to the state box section of the stadium.

I prostrated for him in the usual Yoruba tradition of respecting elders, particularly Chief Salami, whose image and reputation loomed in Western Nigeria at the time, and was old enough to be my father anyway. Indeed, he was my adopted father.

He did not waste any time at all. The smile on his face spoke loudly that he had something up his sleeves.

He pointed at the car. Everyone knew the car. It belonged to Chief Emiola Adesina. Chief asked if I liked it. What a question? This was the sexiest and most beautiful car in the world, as far as I was concerned. I loved it.

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At that moment, Chief Emiola Adesina came out of the building to join us.

Chief Adesina was a dashingly handsome, very urbane gentleman, Chief Salami’s bosom friend, Director of Sports of the Western State Sports Council, a UK-trained first-generation sports administrator. He was managing sports in the State as well as the magnificent World-Class sports complex that was the Liberty Stadium, and was also a part of the masterminds behind the evolution of one of the greatest football movements in Africa at that time – Shooting Stars International Football Club.

In a move that could have been planned (now that I think about it) Chief Salami told Chief Adesina that he was too old to be driving such a ‘debonair’ car, and that I just told him I loved the car. He told him to hand over the car key to me.

I stood there staring at both gentlemen, dumb-founded.

Chief Salami pulled me aside and asked me how much money I could spare to buy the car.

I had just received a part of my bonus for winning the African Cup, and Chief Salami was aware of it. Chief was also aware that he deducted a paltry sum of money from the bonus to pay for a plot of land he insisted I bought from his personal estate behind Yejide Girls’ Grammar, Ibadan.

So, he knew how much I had left of the less than two thousand Naira bonus I was given.

Chief Emiola, with a smile still on his face, no discussion of any sort, brought out the key from his pocket and handed over to me. I was dreaming. I pinched myself. This was real.

That morning, after training, I drove my dream car away to start a new life as a car owner on the streets of Ibadan!

I don’t quite recall the details again, but later that week or so, I paid a paltry sum for the car.

Chief Emiola Adesina was very interested in me, and about how I managed to combine my football in Shooting Stars FC with my education at The Polytechnic, Ibadan. He had a passion for education.

I was not surprised when, with his wife, they established a secondary school, named after his first daughter, Subuola Memorial College. When he retired from the civil service, he became a teacher for decades. The school is still one of the best private schools in Ibadan.

Chief Emiola Adesina, a High Chief in Ibadan, was a man of style and class, a complete gentleman, an astute administrator, honest, incorruptible, hardworking and integrity-personified!

Between Chiefs Salami and Adesina, and with the support of the Governor of the State at the time, General David Jemibewon, they established what eventually became a rallying football club and movement for all Yoruba around Africa – Shooting Stars International.

Some two years ago, in Ibadan, I met him at a social function with his wife. They were both looking still agile and very well for their ages.

Last week, I read on a social media platform that Chief Emiola Adesina died peacefully at 90!

I look back now and thank the Creator of the Universe for letting him be an active player in my early life.

Rest peacefully, Sir, with the saints in heaven!

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