Own Your Game
By Kobe Johnson
Every moment I spend on the court, I make a statement about who I am. Every leap and sprint, it all becomes my signature, boldly declaring my identity in a game where authenticity becomes strength. Sports have always been a pivotal element in my life, serving both as a source of joy and a crucible for growth. Each bounce of the basketball, much like the lively games with my brothers, Rod and Jalen, has helped shape who I am, fostering resilience and pride.
Early on, I followed a path initially shadowed by the towering figures of both my older brothers. Both renowned athletes and people, they were and still are my heroes. It was at USC that I’ve found the strength in blazing my own path. Here, against the backdrop of the Trojan legacy, I chose to write my own story, stepping out of their shadows and doing my own thing.
In high school, being compared to others was inevitable. Each recruitment letter, each scout’s observation, was a chance to reflect on my own journey. These comparisons weren't limitations but motivators, guiding me to embrace my unique path. At USC, these experiences became stepping stones, helping me realize that my journey is defined not by others' footsteps but by my own strides. Each step was an opportunity to carve out a distinct path, one that honored my legacy while boldly marking my individuality.
Growing up, the games and competitions with my brothers became more than sibling rivalry, but early lessons in understanding my unique strengths and weaknesses. Our backyard matchups were straightforward lessons in resilience and personal growth; and I take pride in the fact that I would never give up.
On frozen courts, I absorbed the values of hard work and dedication. Excellence stems from effort and resolve, transcending natural gifts. At USC, wearing the team colors was about embodying a significant motto: "always earned, never given." This ethos propelled me into relentless practice, transforming fatigue and doubt into milestones of my growth.
My journey underscored that skills are honed through perseverance and determination. Embracing the power of teamwork as a college athlete, every strategy on the court was a vital lesson in collaboration. Understanding and accepting my role, whether leading the offense or supporting from the sidelines, reinforced a crucial lesson: to achieve greatness, we must be true to ourselves.
There have been challenges–moments where my efforts felt overshadowed, when doubts clouded my passion. These moments, though, were critical in forging my character in steel, teaching me to confront challenges with poise. They underscored a profound truth: being true to yourself is the bedrock of overcoming adversity.
I often remind myself of a powerful notion: the heart of our journey lies in our ability to inspire and elevate one another. We rise by lifting others. It extends beyond the lines of the basketball court, aligning with all walks of life, urging us to exceed our perceived limits and to kindle the potential in those around us. It's about the relentless pursuit to not just succeed, but to uplift and transform every space we inhabit, whether it's through a game-winning shot or a simple gesture of support to a teammate.
In the role of captain, I’ve learned that leadership requires an example. My actions can ignite a spark in others, showing that every challenge becomes a chance to break barriers, foster resilience, and grow stronger, together.
Every step leading to USC has been a dialogue between expectations and aspirations. Here, in LA, at USC, I’ve learned to listen, yet choose my own words. This journey will be marked by personal and collective victories, lessons learned, and setbacks faced. The most enduring victory, however, lies in the pursuit of authenticity. The true achievement in life, as in basketball, is not just finding one's rhythm but inspiring others to find theirs. It’s not about outpacing others, but sparking a shared drive toward something greater than ourselves. Being ourselves is game changing, igniting an unstoppable momentum, driving us to surpass our limits and achieve the extraordinary.