Kobe Bryant, superstar guard of the L.A. Lakers, chose to announce his retirement from the NBA this year by writing a poem addressed to the game of basketball. Inspired by Kobe’s interest in writing, and his last NBA All-Star game appearance, this entry uses Kobe’s well-documented life and career as a case study for MBA candidates who are trying to decide what points to highlight in their application essays.
If Kobe were to apply to business school and write an Accomplishments Essay on his career, these would be my suggestions (which are, of course, applicable to your own application essays):
Highlight a Team Accomplishment
With a myriad of individual accomplishments to choose from – such as being 3rd on the NBA all-time scoring list, being an MVP, or multiple All-NBA and All-Star selection including an incredible 81-point game – it would be best for Kobe to choose a team accomplishment to highlight. This would help mitigate the Admissions Committee’s concerns about him being too individualistic (and and views that he is an egotistical maniac).
Lesson: For candidates involved with very technical or individual work, highlighting interpersonal skills or group accomplishments will help address stereotypical biases and display a multi-dimensional personality. It will assure the program you are applying to that you will be able to contribute positively to group experiences both in and out of the classroom.
Provide Essential Details
To dive into his essay further, Kobe could choose to write about his first championship where he had to take on a major role in a critical game (for the NBA fans, this is Game 4 of the 2000 finals) as a highlight. Playing on a sprained ankle, Kobe had to step up to the challenge when the Lakers’ main star, Shaquille O’Neal, had to leave the game due to six fouls.
He could then weave into his story how hours of practice finally paid off and how he happy he was to deliver for his team, after remembering how he disappointed he felt after he had let the team down in 1997, as an 18 year-old, when he missed four airballs in a similar scenario.
Lesson: This example would encompass several key aspects of an MBA candidate’s profile, including ability to perform under pressure, handle large-scale responsibility at a young age, and work through personal difficulties, and including the story about the 1997 disappointment would show humility, perseverance, and resilience. These are admirable and relatable characteristics, which are important to remember when writing these essays. It will be helpful to come across as somebody that can be identified with, somebody that people would want to root for, rather than only being an otherworldly talent or incredibly fortunate heir.
Recognize Help and Mentorship
Acknowledging superstar teammate Shaq as the lead player and mentioning the guidance provided by legendary coach Phil Jackson during his essay would help Kobe come across as genuine, humble, and a good team player.
Lesson: When writing these essays, some applicants are tempted to grab all the credit. In team-based accomplishments, one wants to communicate not only his or her contributions, but also the ability to work with and learn from others.
Finally, for that slam-dunk essay, while accolades and statistics are important, Kobe’s (and your) profile has to resonate with very human qualities and a personal story explaining the journey to truly impress MBA Admissions Committees.
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Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.