Former NBA star Kobe Bryant, who played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, turns 41 today.
The basketball legend signed his first pro contract with the Lakers straight out of high school, at 17. It was worth $3.5 million and made him a millionaire virtually overnight.
"When your Laker dream comes true tomorrow, you need to figure out a way to invest in the future of your family and friends," Bryant wrote in a letter to his younger self on The Players' Tribune in 2016. "I said INVEST. I did not say GIVE."
"Purely giving material things to your siblings and friends may appear to be the right decision," continued Bryant, who would go on to earn a record $680 million over the course of his career. "But the day will come when you realize that as much as you believed you were doing the right thing, you were actually holding them back."
Handing out money to your closest friends and family is not necessarily the best way to show your love, Bryant learned, since it can negatively affect their work ethic and may even suppress their ambition: "You will come to understand that you were taking care of them because it made YOU feel good; it made YOU happy to see them smiling and without a care in the world," he wrote.
"While you were feeling satisfied with yourself, you were slowly eating away at their own dreams and ambitions. You were adding material things to their lives, but subtracting the most precious gifts of all: independence and growth."
If you come into a windfall, Bryant recommends helping the people around you by investing in their future rather than giving them handouts.
"Put them through school. Set them up with job interviews and help them become leaders in their own right," he wrote, adding: "You will see them grow independently and have their own ambitions and their own lives, and your relationship with all of them will be much better as a result."
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