The Legacy Of Kobe Bryant. . . In His Own Words

Kobe Bryant was the only man in history to win five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, four All-Star Most Valuable Player Awards and an Oscar. And he could speak four languages. A Beethoven fan, he was a genuine man of many gifts and interests.

Many measure Bryant’s life by the numbers, but his humility, sacrifice and tireless work ethic shone through. He was the youngest starter in NBA history, at 18 years and 158 days old. Bryant became the first guard to play 20 consecutive seasons and all with the same team. When he retired in 2016, he had scored more than 30,000 points.

The greatness of Kobe’s athletic career merited a first-ballot selection to the Hall of Fame, as the basketball world unanimously agreed. He would have been inducted into Hall this year even if he had survived the helicopter crash near Los Angeles that killed him, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people on Sunday.

But the world lost more than a hardworking phenomenon known for a picturesque jump shot and graceful style of play. Lost was an honest voice that shared a lot. He told his mercurial story in heartening detail. He shared his uneasiness with life, and people who were not hardcore NBA fans felt a connection to him.

“When I was growing up in Italy, I grew up in isolation,” Bryant said in 2015. “It was not an environment suited to me. I was the only black kid. I didn’t speak the language. I’d be in one city, but then we’d move to a different city and I’d have to do everything again.

“I’d make friends, but I’d never be part of the group,” he added, “Because the other kids were already growing up together. So, this is how I grew up, and these are the weaknesses that I have.”

Bryant’s plainspoken humanity and link to the outside world are not typical in professional sports. He donated at least $1 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. In Los Angeles, he backed My Friends Place, a safe haven for homeless youth; and Stand Up on Second, which offers job training and finds jobless Americans housing.

“The most important thing is that you try to inspire people so they can be great in whatever they want to do,” Bryant said.

Part of his message, however, was centered on the sort of sacrifice he made during every off-season— working out at 3 a.m., spending countless hours in the gym perfecting his artistry. . . instead of enjoying his wealth and down-time with his wife and daughters.

“We can all be masters at our craft, but you have to make a choice,” Bryant said. “What I mean by that is, there are inherent sacrifices that come along with that: family time, hanging out with your friends, being a great friend, being a great son, nephew, whatever the case may be. There are sacrifices that come along with that.”

Bryant won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, one short of his idol, Michael Jordan, but more than most. In times of duress, he wanted the ball, seeking the responsibility of a game’s biggest moment. Often he delivered.

“If you’re afraid to fail, then you’re probably going to fail,” said Bryant. “My brain, it cannot process failure. It will not process failure, because if I sit there and have to face myself and tell myself, ‘You’re a failure’ … I think that’s almost worse than death.”

He was a constant thinker, a musing adventurer who won his 2018 Oscar for an animated short, “Dear Basketball,” with music by “Star Wars” composer John Williams. He patterned the pace and momentum of some games on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. He thought of himself as a symphony conductor, leading the Lakers and their global legion of fans in one orchestrated aria after another.

And the ensemble of his opponents never intimidated him.

“The last time I was intimidated was when I was six years old in karate class,” he said. “I was an orange belt and the instructor ordered me to fight a black belt who was a couple years older and a lot bigger. I was scared s*tless. I mean, I was terrified, and he kicked my ss.”

“But then I realized he didn’t kick my *ss as bad as I thought he was going to and that there was nothing really to be afraid of,” Bryant said. “That was around the time I realized that intimidation didn’t really exist if you’re in the right frame of mind.”

He shared that mantra with his daughters, including his basketball-loving 13-year-old Gianna, who perished with him on Sunday. He coached her team, basked in her passion for the game, and was proud she adopted his assertive attitude.

“The best thing that happens when we go out,” Bryant said, “fans will come up to me and she’ll be standing next to me and they’ll be like, ‘Hey, you gotta have a boy! You and [wife Vanessa] gotta have a boy to have somebody to carry on the tradition and the legacy.’”

And Gianna, he said, replied: “Hey, I got this! You don’t need a boy for that.’ ”

Kobe smiled a daddy’s grin, broad and knowing. It was a proud moment for him.

“Have a good time,” he said. “Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile and just keep on rolling.

“It’s the one thing you can control. You are responsible for how people remember you or don’t. So, don’t take it lightly.”

Simple STEM Activities To Do At Home

(Family Features) Winter is the season for family gatherings, snow days and breaks from school and work, but all this time indoors can lead to a serious case of cabin fever for both children and adults. Before you face another chorus of “I’m bored,” consider these simple activities you and your child can do together when winter weather or schedules have you stuck indoors.

Each activity idea from the experts at KinderCare can help children build foundational skills they’ll need for success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas so you can combine fun and learning.

Infants— Most babies love sensory baskets, and it’s easy to make one at home. Fill a basket or low-sided container with materials in a variety of shapes, textures, weights, smells and sounds for your baby to explore. While your baby explores the materials and develops hand-eye coordination, describe what he or she is doing, seeing, feeling, hearing or tasting to help build his or her vocabulary.

Toddlers— Show your toddler how to make ramps by stacking blocks or small cardboard boxes and placing one edge of a piece of cardboard on top. Invite your child to gather toy vehicles or balls and other objects to see how they roll. Gather objects that will roll and a few that won’t. Encourage your child to ask questions and experiment with ramps of different heights. These experiments in force and motion can help develop your child’s understanding about how different objects behave on inclines.

Preschool (3-4-year-olds)— Invite your child to observe from a safe distance as you boil 1 cup red cabbage in 2 cups water. As the water turns purplish, drain it into a clear container. After the water cools, invite your child to measure a small amount of white vinegar and stir it in while observing what happens as additional vinegar is added. Next, have your child measure a small amount of baking soda or milk and stir it in to observe even more changes. Exploration, experimentation and observation are all key STEM skills.

Pre-Kindergarten (4-5-year-olds)— Gather a variety of craft items, building toys and recycled materials like construction paper, markers, pipe cleaners, craft sticks, fabric scraps, glue sticks, tape, scissors, blocks, interlocking toys, paper towel rolls, tissue boxes, cardboard, lids and plastic food containers. Place the materials you’ve gathered in a bag. Give your child the “tinker bag” and some space to build. Invite him or her to explore the materials, create something and share it with you as a way to build engineering skills and curiosity. Limiting the number of materials children have to work with can often create more opportunities for problem solving and innovation.

School Ages— Gather a few containers from your recycle bin, such as plastic food containers, tin cans or cracker boxes. Talk with your child about how some things typically thrown away or recycled can be reused for the same purpose or a new one. When items are reused, the amount of waste that ends up in landfills is reduced. Invite your child to select one of the containers and decide on a new use for it. When your child is finished creating something new using on-hand craft materials, ask him or her to share the innovation with you. Give your child feedback in the same way engineers do by giving a compliment, asking a question or offering a suggestion.

For more activity ideas, visit

CCBC Hosts Sealant Saturday For Children At Dundalk Campus

Baltimore County, Md.— Community College of Baltimore County‘s Dental Hygiene program will host Sealant Saturday on Saturday, February 22, 2020 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at CCBC Dundalk located at 7200 Sollers Point Road. This free event will be held in the Dental Arts Building.

Sealant Saturday services include free dental examinations, fluoride treatments and protective coatings (sealants) for permanent molars for children ages six to 17 to help prevent tooth decay. CCBC’s Dental Hygiene students will perform services under the supervision of a dentist and Dental Hygiene faculty. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to be treated.

The dental services are free, but an appointment is required.

To register, call 443-840-3340 and leave a daytime telephone number where you can be reached to schedule an appointment.

Getting To Know PNC Banking Center Manager Melanie Ferragut

When Melanie Ferragut began working at PNC five years ago, she immediately fit right in.

Ferragut, the Banking Center Manager at PNC’s Severna Park location, shares similar values of the bank, including: striving for excellence; a better quality of life; celebrating differences; and teamwork.

“The volunteering and community connections are a big part of what I tend to go above and beyond my branch role,” said Farragut, who moved from Virginia to the Baltimore area.

“I think the core values of PNC, one of which is diversity and inclusion, is a big part of things,” she said. “It is something that’s not just on paper and not just something that’s talked about. It’s real. We have a big focus on inclusion, so I think that’s what attracted a lot of people.”

As the banking center manager, Ferragut helps to generate new consumer and business development opportunities, and she plays an integral role in driving loyalty through proactive interactions with PNC customers.

“Customers should know that I’m very accessible to them. I genuinely care about everyone; in fact, I care about them on a deeper level. I’m here to assist with their financial needs or any issues that come up,” Ferragut said. “So, the thing I would say is that our customers need to know the most is just how available I am to them and how much I genuinely care.”

Given the size of PNC Ferragut says it’s essential the bank maintains its Main Street focus.

“So, we’re very much involved in the community. We know who our customers are, we know who are business community is, and we strive to be a part of that,” she said. “It’s a critical part of what makes us PNC, and the fact that we are still that mainstream and people know we are here and we are available.”

Ferragut also noted that PNC officials have long recognized that it’s the collective power of the company’s unique differences that provide strength.

It’s a powerful testimony, one that helps PNC nurture an open and inclusive culture, empowering all of its employees to have a positive effect on their communities.

“We’ve worked with Annapolis Green, and we’re working with a therapeutic riding academy and other nonprofits, and organizations like St. John’s College, the Mitchell Gallery, and the Maryland Heritage Center,” Ferragut said.

“With the Maryland Heritage Center, we see what we can do together with this being an important year as far as the women’s suffragette and the vote.” she said. “We continue to look at what type of things we can do. Partnerships to continue to help bring more knowledge into the community.”

Ferragut says she is proud of PNC’s Employee Business Resource Groups – or EBRGs, which are unique groups composed mostly of employees who share a common dimension of diversity, such as gender, sexual orientation, heritage or military service.

Particularly impressive is the Women’s EBRGs, which gives female employees opportunities to grow personally and professionally through networking,

mentoring, workshops, speaker series, community engagement and other events, according to Ferragut.

“So women can build up leaders, can get support and education within PNC to do everything they dream of doing whatever their aspirations may be, and they will find the support to do that,” Ferragut said.

For more information about PNC Financial Services Group, or PNC Bank, visit: www.PNC,com

Racially Discriminatory Legislation And Policies Must Be Stopped

From pro-slavery laws to Jim Crow, to Prohibition, to racial profiling, to Stop-and-Frisk, history is clear: racist laws and discriminatory bans have been devastating for Black America.

Today, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) and National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) have joined together with other African-American law enforcement executives to call on you— our readers in Black communities across the nation – to see the warning signs of yet another proposed racially discriminatory law: the menthol cigarette ban. 

It is a well-known fact that over 85 percent of African Americans, who smoke prefer menthol cigarettes. There is no factual basis to assert that a menthol cigarette ban will stop African Americans from smoking. In fact, the unintended consequences of such a racially discriminatory ban will set the stage for more negative and more likely counterproductive interactions between law enforcement and African Americans.

While proponents argue that a menthol cigarette ban could encourage menthol cigarette smokers to quit smoking cold-turkey, another possible outcome could be extremely dangerous— the creation of an illicit market. If this happens, illegal sales of menthol cigarettes will likely be concentrated in communities of color, leading to a greater police presence, citations, fines, and arrests for selling a product that for the past 50 years has been legal.

Possible bans on menthol cigarettes are now being considered throughout the United States as add-ons to e-cigarette bans. It must be said that while FDA has deemed teen vaping an “epidemic,” there is no teen menthol cigarette epidemic. The fact is teen cigarette use has steadily been on the decline over the past decade. 

Recently in New York, the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner courageously issued a public statement warning against the consequences of a proposed menthol cigarette ban. Sybrina Fulton and Gwendolyn Carr stated, “When you ban a product sold mostly in Black communities, you must consider the reality of what will happen to that very same over-represented community in the criminal justice system.”

Law enforcement leaders like Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Grand Council of Guardians, and National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers (NABLEO) have stated countless times that a ban on menthol cigarettes will have unintended negative consequences, especially for African Americans.

Over the past 30 years, we have reduced tobacco consumption overall across this country by about 40 percent. And we did not do that with the criminal justice community.

We did that with education, we did it with treatment, we did it from a health and educational perspective. Let’s continue with that. Let’s not do something that’s going to end up with these unintended consequences of increasing interaction between police and community members.

Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP): “I dedicated 34 years of my life to public safety, enforcing the laws that our legislators placed before me. That’s what cops do, and we trust that those laws are well thought out, studied and based upon sound data and evidence. As we begin to mirror the days of alcohol prohibition with tobacco bans, expect the violence and corruption that comes with the illicit market and add something else, the over criminalization of the black community.”

Jiles Ship, President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives – New Jersey (NOBLE): “Banning menthol cigarettes would be a 21st Century attempt at Prohibition, a past failure of government to restrict a previously legal product.  As we learned with Prohibition, every time the government tries to ban something, it seems to cause other problems.  And unfortunately, a menthol cigarette ban would be another example of government action that disproportionately disrupts the Black community.”

Charles Billips, National Chair Person of Grand Council of Guardians, “The first question I asked is how are they going to implement this ban on menthol cigarettes, knowing that a large number of Black and Brown people smoke menthol cigarettes? It would be best to educate the communities on the affect it has on our health instead of a ban enforced through Law Enforcement.”

As The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once prophetically said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” And the right thing to do for our families and communities and for all who stand for freedom, justice and equality is to speak out against all forms of racial discrimination and disproportionate law enforcement, as well as the systems, laws, bans and policies that perpetuate them.

We oppose the following bills in the Maryland State Legislature: Maryland House Bill HB3 and Maryland Senate SB233.

Speak out against racism. Stand up against discrimination. Let your voices be heard.

Legendary Manuscript And Relic On View At The Walters After 40 Years

Beginning February 1, 2020, the St. Francis Missal— a legendary 12th-century manuscript and relic of touch of St. Francis of Assisi— will go on view at Walters Art Museum for the first time in 40 years.

The St. Francis Missal is an intimate exhibition that, along with the eponymous text, features approximately 23 objects, including paintings, ivories, ceramics and documentation of the Missal’s recent two-year conservation funded by the Mellon Foundation. “This exhibition is an opportunity for visitors to view one of the museum’s most famous works of art,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director. “We are thrilled to once again showcase this key object in our permanent collection and to share exciting new discoveries.”

In 1208, St. Francis of Assisi and two followers were debating what God’s plan for them might be. Unable to agree, they sought answers at the church of San Nicolo in Assisi, which Francis often attended. They opened the Missal, which sat on the altar, three times at random and in every case, the text on the page urged renouncing earthly goods. This pivotal moment laid the foundation for the Franciscan order. Due to this possible contact with the saint, Franciscans worldwide consider the object now known as the St. Francis Missal a relic of touch, and many make pilgrimages to Baltimore to see it.

Decades of use took a toll on the book’s fragile binding, and in 2017, the Walters conservation staff began a two-year restoration project. The Missal has since been repaired, stabilized and digitized for the Walters’ manuscript website Ex Libris, and is available once again for viewing.

“For those familiar with the Missal’s story, it will be an exciting moment to re-engage with an important object. For others, the exhibition will shed light on a manuscript that has a unique and fascinating history,” said Lynley Herbert, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.

The exhibition draws upon the Walters’ world-renowned rare books and manuscripts collection that spans more than 1000 years and contains over 900 manuscripts, 1300 of the earliest printed books, and 2000 rare later editions from across the globe.

The St. Francis Missal will be on view February 1 through May 31, 2020.

The Walters Art Museum is a cultural hub in the heart of Baltimore, located in the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. The museum’s collection spans more than seven millennia, from 5000 BCE to the 21st century, and encompasses 36,000 objects from around the world. Since its founding, the Walters’ mission has been to bring art and people together to create a place where people of every background can be touched by art. As part of this commitment, admission to the museum and special exhibitions is always free.

Hidden Tax Increases On Airline Tickets Won’t Fly

Why is it that poor people are always asked to pay more in America? Last year, I warned about the possibility that Congress might try to impose a new tax on air travelers. Well, it’s 2020— and here we go again.

Even in the midst of a historic impeachment trial and potential military conflict abroad, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have managed to find time to dust off its plan to soak air travelers, including working people who struggle everyday just to make ends meet.

Make no mistake about it: this is a tax hike, even though backers of this plan won’t call it a tax hike, for obvious reasons. And it’s one that hits relatively low-wage workers harder than it hits those who make a lot more money. And it hits those who routinely fly for business especially hard too.

This week, Democratic leaders are expected to unveil their broad infrastructure agenda for the coming year— a plan that is sorely needed given our aging highways, railways and other transportation needs.

But here is what is galling: sources tell me that buried in the broad array of transportation initiatives is a proposal to raise the so-called Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), a hidden fee on airline travelers that Congress enacted long ago to help pay for renovation projects at airports around the country.

Most Americans have probably never heard of the PFC, now capped at about $4.50 per person for each leg of a flight. But working families across the country, including our readers, may soon feel the impact if some members of Congress have their way.

Here is how the fee works. Passengers are charged the fee at the ticket counter, allowing the airport that collects it to keep it for local repairs and renovations. Current proposals in Congress include one to nearly double the fee to $8.50 per person for each leg of a flight. Another possibility is eliminating the cap entirely, thereby allowing airports to charge whatever they like.

If the fee is raised to $8.50, a family of four on a trip with a connecting flight would pay nearly $150 in this tax alone— a tax that is layered on top of the price of the ticket itself, a major reason people don’t notice it. Such a substantial increase could be the deciding factor between that family taking a much-deserved vacation or staying home.

While most people agree that it is in the public’s best interest to have safe and

efficient airports that can accommodate increased passenger travel, proponents of increasing the passenger fee have been a little misleading about the condition of the nation’s airports.

In reality, airports are undergoing something of a revitalization, particularly when compared to rail or highway travel. Passengers are traveling at record rates, airport revenues are at all-time highs, and infrastructure upgrades are booming across the nation.

Just take a look at the balance sheets of our nation’s airports. U.S. airports have over $16 billion of unrestricted cash and investments on hand, with $7 billion sitting in the aviation trust fund. And, in the last decade, more than $165 billion in federal aid has been directed to airports for improvement projects at America’s largest 30 airports alone.

Some of these projects have been completed, others are currently underway, and some have received approval to move forward in the coming months. For example, Los Angeles International Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport are both undergoing multi-billion-dollar upgrades. Smaller facilities like the Long Island MacArthur Airport and the Shawnee Regional Airport are also upgrading their terminals and runways.

The bottom line, then, is that there is no substantive basis for a fee hike. And it makes even less sense politically.

With Election Day just months away, most lawmakers will likely make the safe calculation and reject any proposed hike presented on the floor for a vote, lest they stir a voter backlash. Yet it should be worrisome that House Democratic leaders appear willing to put a fee hike on the table for consideration.

It could be nothing more than a trial balloon released in an attempt to test whether rank-and-file lawmakers have the stomach for taking up such a measure in an election year. But even if it is just that, there’s still reason for concern, given that even unpopular ideas have a way of gaining sudden momentum in the topsy-turvy politics of Congress.

Air travel remains one of the most popular and necessary forms of transportation because it is relatively safe and convenient. But it should not become more expensive because a hidden tax that few people expected is added.

Congress should not put air travel out of the reach of American families who are still trying to get out of poverty. Thus, increasing taxes on airline tickets won’t fly for black Americans and won’t fly for all others who believe in economic fairness and equality of opportunity.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) representing the Black Press of America. He can be reached at

Big Pharma Doesn’t Deserve All The Hate

Americans loathe the pharmaceutical industry. It ranks dead last in a recent Gallup poll that tracks the public’s opinion of 25 different sectors.

This scorn is misplaced. It’s true that the biopharmaceutical sector contains a few bad actors. But the majority of drug companies are responsible corporate citizens that spend billions to invent lifesaving medicines.

If we let our collective resentment turn into tangible, anti-innovation policies— such as drug price controls— we’ll end up worse off.

American pharmaceutical researchers deserve credit for the lion’s share of medical progress. In 2017, firms poured $97 billion into research and development operations in the United States. That’s more than double the U.S. government’s spending on scientific research. Scientists in U.S. labs are currently developing more than half of all medicines in development worldwide.

Thanks to these efforts, Americans are beating deadly diseases in record numbers. Cancer death rates have declined close to 30 percent since the 1990s. Researchers credit nearly three-quarters of these survival gains to groundbreaking drugs.

Biopharmaceutical research also revolutionized the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Just 30 years ago, a diagnosis was a death sentence. In the mid-1990s, scientists developed highly active antiretroviral therapies. These drugs caused HIV/AIDS death rates to plummet 88 percent.

Scientists have recently turned to new types of drugs, such as gene and immuno-therapies, that reprogram patients’ bodies to fight disease. Doctors already use these medicines to treat hemophilia, leukemia, and blindness.

Progress like this doesn’t come easy. It takes over a decade to turn a promising lab compound into a marketable medicine. For every experimental drug that makes it to patients, nine others fail in clinical trials.

Taking failure into consideration, it costs more than $2 billion on average to bring a new treatment to market.

For the most part, pharmaceutical companies set drug prices at reasonable levels that help them recoup their investments and fund future research, while still preserving patients’ access to new therapies. Unfortunately, few Americans see that side of the industry. They only see people like Martin Shkreli, the so-called “pharma bro” who bought the rights to a 60-year-old, off-patent drug and then raised its price by more than 5,000 percent.

What Shkreli did was despicable. But he’s the exception, not the rule.

To see the true face of the pharmaceutical industry, Americans can look to innovators like the late Maurice Hilleman, a researcher who developed eight of the 14 most common children’s vaccines, including immunizations for chickenpox and measles. Researchers like him have collectively saved and improved tens of millions of lives.

The biopharmaceutical industry isn’t perfect. But drug companies work every day to cure deadly diseases, risking billions of dollars in the process.

If we forget that basic fact and eliminate companies’ incentives to invest in

research, we’ll live to regret it. Or perhaps, we won’t.

Sandip Shah is founder and president of Market Access Solutions, which develops strategies to optimize patient access to life-changing therapies

How Self-Talk Determines Your Destiny

Do you hear that voice? Yes, the voice in your head that allows you to read this very article. Even though you may not be speaking— there is a tiny little voice in your head that continues to influence and direct every action, decision and emotion that you feel every single day.

This is the same voice that tells you to stop when you know you need to keep going to the gym. This is the same voice that tells you that you shouldn’t speak up at meetings for fear of what everyone may think about you, and the same voice that tells you to stay in the bed when you know you should get up and tackle the day. This is your self-talk. Your self-talk can either contribute to your self-fulfillment or lead you to your own self-destruction. It’s a choice that every human must make when they began their own journey of self-awakening.

Take a moment and ask what you’ve said to yourself lately. Has it been positive or negative? Is your self-talk pushing you towards your desired outcomes, goals and preferred life? Scientists have conducted hundreds of studies and have concluded that the actual thoughts you have about whom you are or where you want to go physically affect the structure of your brain. Many years ago, we believed that our brains were fixed and hard-wired but now we know that we have the ability to not only physically shape our brain but can create better habits that can contribute to a more fulfilling life. Think of your self-talk as the first step in guiding your brain and life to what you want more of.

I know the first question that comes to mind is “where do I start?” Let me first start off by saying that this is something that is learned over time. Rushing this process will only lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction. It can take some

patience but once you began this journey and stay consistent, your life will start to unfold with more desirable outcomes.

The first step in taking charge of your self-talk is being aware of your thoughts in the first place. Many times, we become so attached to every thought that comes up that we tend to believe they are always true and fact. You must detach yourself from negative thoughts and began to interrupt them— and even allow them to pass through your mind. I know this is easier said than done but just the fact that you spent time to even question a negative thought is progress in itself and a huge first step in becoming mentally conscious and aware. Over time, through neuroplasticity— the ability of the brain to change continuously throughout and individual’s life— this practice becomes easier and your brain slowly begins to change its actual physical structure.

Another strategy to help interrupt and counter negative or stressful thoughts that I found to work well is by Byron Katie. It consists of four simple questions that you should ask yourself when a negative thought arises:

  1. Is it true?

  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought

  4. Who would you be without the thought?

These questions can be used as a mental guide and serve as a reminder that not every thought that you have is true. Ultimately, they can be used to navigate your way to a more positive outlook in a specific situation that you may be dealing with. Remember, your self-talk is the very first step towards creating your destiny. Each thought that you have about your life, goals, relationships and body can and will have a direct response to every corresponding facet of your life. Become mindful of your self-talk in moments of stress or adversity and listen to what you are saying to yourself. Your thoughts can be the pathways and gateways to living a life of abundance and peace only if you decide to use them in that way. This leads me to one of my favorite quotes by Lao Tzu which says: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” Your thoughts, positive or negative will shape your destiny.

Positively Caviar, Inc. (PCI) is a grassroots nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization focused on instilling mental resilience by way of positive thinking and optimism. Each month, a member of their Nucleus Team features a column focused on mental and physical health tips, scientific studies, nutrition facts and stories that are positive in nature to support a positive and healthy lifestyle. To learn more about how you can support, volunteer, or donate to Positively Caviar, Inc. visit:

Kobe Bryant, NBA Superstar And Future Hall of Fame, Is Dead at 41

It’s hard to believe NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, whose prodigious talent and win-at-all-costs spirit made him one of the most famous and decorated athletes in history, is gone.

He was the rare celebrity who didn’t need a last name. Oprah. LeBron. Beyonce. Kobe. Everyone knew who you were talking about.

Still youthful at 41, Bryant — who died in a helicopter crash Sunday in California — looked like he could suit up and drop 30 points on a rival NBA team. It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was scoring 60 points in his final NBA game, soaking up the cheers of Los Angeles Lakers fans who worshiped him for two decades as one of the city’s favorite sons.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates victory following Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic in June 2009.

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates victory following Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic in June 2009.

After his 20-year NBA career — all with the Lakers — Bryant is all but assured of being a first-ballot inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.

“He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force,” said fellow NBA icon Michael Jordan.

An 18-time All-Star, Bryant was known for his remarkable scoring ability — his turnaround jumper was nearly unstoppable — and his championship pedigree. He teamed with fellow All-Star Shaquille O’Neal to win three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002 and later won two more rings, in 2009 and 2010.

Known as the Black Mamba — a nickname he gave himself — Bryant twice led the NBA in scoring and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2008.

Bryant’s daughter Gianna, 13, was with her father on the helicopter and was also killed in the crash, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

“Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common,” O’Neal wrote on Twitter Sunday. “We love our families. Whenever we got together I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his.”

“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement.

“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary … But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.”He entered the NBA at age 17.

Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents, Joe and Pam Bryant, gave him the namesake after seeing a type of steak on a restaurant menu. Kobe beef is from a species of cattle, Wagyu, raised in the Kobe region of Japan.

Kobe Bryant's 'Cantine Riunite' youth team in the early 1990's in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Bryant is in the top row, third from the left.

Courtesy Davide Giudici

Kobe Bryant’s ‘Cantine Riunite’ youth team in the early 1990’s in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Bryant is in the top row, third from the left.

He lived in Italy from the age of six to 13 while his father played professional basketball, and he spoke Italian fluently. In one of his final interviews before he died, Bryant told CNN how he developed a love of soccer in Italy but also witnessed racism before moving back to the United States.

“When I was growing up in Italy, I’ve obviously witnessed it firsthand going to certain soccer matches and things of that nature,” Bryant told CNN’s Andy Scholes. “My parents have taught me and educated me on how to deal with those sorts of things.”

Bryant played high school basketball at Lower Merion in Pennsylvania.

“This is a difficult day for everyone in our school community,” said Amy Buckman, a spokeswoman for Lower Merion School District.

“Mr. Bryant’s connection to Lower Merion High School, where he played basketball prior to joining the NBA, has raised the profile of our high school and our district throughout the world. Our school community will always be grateful for his ongoing generosity to his alma mater, including his dedication of our Kobe Bryant gymnasium and his support of our girls and boys basketball teams.”

Bryant went straight from high school to the NBA, drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick of the 1996 draft, making him the youngest NBA player in history at age 17. Bryant was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for veteran center Vlade Divac.

He soon became one of the most decorated players in NBA history and also won two Olympic gold medals for USA men’s basketball, in 2008 and 2012.

Off the court his dazzling smile sold everything from Nike shoes to McDonald’s hamburgers.

There was controversy, however, when Bryant was accused of sexual assaulting a 19-year-old Colorado hotel worker in 2003. Bryant insisted the encounter was consensual. The criminal sexual assault charge was dropped in 2004, and the accuser agreed to settle her civil lawsuit against Bryant in 2005.

LeBron James: ‘Kobe is a legend, that’s for damn sure’

At 6 feet, 6 inches, Bryant could run the point or play shooting guard, even though his position was small forward.

One of the most memorable games in NBA history came on January 22, 2006, when Bryant scored 81 points in a Lakers’ 122-104 win over Toronto. Only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962 tops this performance.

And in his final game of his career in 2016, the Black Mamba did it his way, dropping 60 points — on 50 shots — in a Lakers win against the Utah Jazz at a frenzied Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Bryant finished his NBA career with 33,643 points. A day before he died, he was passed by another Laker and superstar, LeBron James, on the league’s all-time scoring list. James accomplished the feat in — of all places — Philadelphia, against the 76ers.

Bryant took to Twitter after James passed him, writing, “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother.”

James, who had “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker on his sneakers before Saturday’s game, talked after the game about Bryant’s influence on him.

“The story is just too much,” James said Saturday night. “It doesn’t make sense. … Now I’m here in a Lakers uniform, in Philadelphia, where he’s from… it’s surreal.”

James — who, like Bryant entered the NBA straight out of high school — said Bryant was someone he looked up to when he was in grade school and high school.

“Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration,” James said. “It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation.

“He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling and it’s dope.

“Kobe’s a legend, that’s for damn sure.”

Another Lakers legend, Magic Johnson, posted a series of tweets on the loss of Bryant, including one showing a picture of Bryant with his two different jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — being retired.

“Kobe and I shared so many special conversations about life and basketball,” Johnson wrote in one tweet. “We had so much in common off the court. I used to love talking to him about Lakers basketball, being fathers and husbands and how much we loved Italy. I will miss those conversations and him so much.”

He coached his daughter, Gianna

Bryant married wife Vanessa in 2001. They had four daughters: Natalia (born in 2003), Gianna (2006), Bianka (2016) and Capri (2019).

He and his daughter Gianna were expected at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Bryant was to coach his daughter’s team in the game.

Bryant said that he had watched little basketball after retiring — in 2018, he won an Oscar for best animated short for “Dear Basketball,” which was based on a poem he wrote — but Gianna’s love of the game sparked his interest in coaching her team.

The two were seen together at numerous NBA games recently, and videos of Gianna’s basketball skills went viral despite her just being 13.

Bryant described Gianna — who had WNBA aspirations — as “hellbent” on going to the University of Connecticut, the alma mater of Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore, two players Bryant recently told CNN “could play in the NBA right now.”

“The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans will come up to me — and she’ll be standing next to me — and be like, ‘Hey you’ve got to have a boy. You and V gotta have a boy and then have somebody carry on the tradition, the legacy,'” Bryant once said in an interview with ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.

But, Bryant added, Gianna would then pipe up, saying, “I got this.”

CNN’s Brandon Griggs contributed to this report.