Feature: 'Mamba Mentality' and the story of Kobe Bryant

Author: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson & Lobsang Gaikpah
Kobe Bryant was one of the NBA's immortals

If you are a basketball enthusiast or have followed the game, especially from the start of this millennium, you will be familiar with the name Kobe Bryant and his iconic nickname ‘Black Mamba’.

Even if you’re not a basketball or sports fan, it’s likely you might have heard the name Kobe Bryant. Yes, he was that popular and very well known. As one commentator put it, Kobe was bigger than the NBA and basketball; he was bigger than life itself.

The news of his tragic demise, together with his basketball-loving daughter and seven others, was heartbreaking, devastating and really painful for the basketball community and the entire world.

Tragic: Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianni died in the crash

What even makes it more painful is the fact that Kobe and his daughter and the others who lost their lives were on their way to a basketball tournament in which he was scheduled to coach his 13-year-old basketball-crazed daughter, Gianna, aka Gigi.

Half man-half amazing
You can look at Kobe’s life from many perspectives and he would still stand out as amazing. He was the true definition of the term ‘half man-half amazing’.

Kobe the NBA superstar: He was loved by the Los Angeles Lakers fans, dreaded and highly respected by many teams, including long-time foes such as the Celtics and adored by the basketball world.

Kobe spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, a rarity in a league in which teams are notorious for trading players and players are known for requesting to be traded.

The basketball icon became the posterboy of LA Lakers

He was the face of the Lakers and the NBA during his time. Even when Lebron James took the NBA by storm in 2003 and was described as the chosen one, Black Mamba was still the idol of the game and was revered by many.

Every NBA fan has his or her Kobe moment -- there were the iconic dunks, or when he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors (the second most points to be scored in a single game by an NBA player).

Kobe was the idol of many players currently playing in the NBA and fans alike.

As kids, we fell in love with the Lakers when they went to three straight finals (2008-2010), winning two (2009 and 2010). Kobe was unstoppable during those championships and we were immediately converted Kobe fans.

Kobe Bryant was very devoted to his family

Kobe the family man: He loved his wife, Vanessa, and four daughters and worked hard to create a great future for them.

He did everything possible to support his daughter Gigi to achieve her dream of becoming a professional basketball player. Kobe was the coach of Gigi’s team and he even founded the MAMBA Academy which organised basketball tournaments for girls.

Kobe the cultural icon: His influence transcended sports. He won an Oscar for a documentary he made about his career. I mean how many sports personalities end up winning Oscars. In fact how many great actors and actresses can boast of winning oscars?

Among Kobe's many laurels was an Oscar for a documentary

Kobe had an influence in music too. Many Hip-hop fanatics might have heard his name drop in more than a dozen songs. From Lil Wayne’s tribute song in 2009 to Kanye West’s Ego remix featuring Beyoncé, Jay-Z, to Drake, to J. Cole and a host of other songs. Not only did his name come up in songs but he had a few songs under his belt. Kobe’s sphere of influence knew no boundaries.

Kobe the motivator and inspirational figure: He made a lot of impact on many NBA players, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Kyrie Irving, one of the best point guards and ball handlers in the NBA.

After his retirement in 2016, Kobe did not forget the game of basketball but rather decided to help develop players. He provided training sessions for many NBA players and taught them how to become better by helping them improve upon their work ethics. Giannis “The Greek Freak”, Lebron James and many others talked about how Kobe helped them elevate their game to the next level.

Mamba Mentality
The Kobe Bryant story will not be compete without shedding light on his “Mamba Mentality”.

Kobe got his nickname from the snake “Black Mamba” and it was what characterised his work ethic and approach towards things.

His killer instinct to finish opponents, just like the Black Mamba, was well known and feared by many teams.

Kobe's successes were attribited to his amazing work ethic

However, the Mamba mentality actually stood for hard work, tenacity and grinding hard. Kobe was a workaholic who never believed in talent. He believed that hard work was the means to achieving one’s goals. He believed that there was always room for improvement and one could even achieve way beyond what the mind could see.

Kobe was the first at the gym and the last to go home. Kobe was the type to cut short his holidays so he could get back into the gym and work.

He was so obsessed with winning that he never regarded those who were not willing to work hard. This led to some people accusing him of being arrogant and self-centred, but all that Mamba wanted was to win and continue to win.

The Lakers retired Kobe's No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys

“When you work hard is when your dreams come true,” he told his daughters in 2017 when the Lakers retired his jerseys #8 and #24.

Kobe the winner
Kobe was 18 when he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 and traded to the Lakers. He ended up spending 20 years with the Lakers, winning five championships (2000-2002 and 2009-2010).

After winning the triple from 2000-2002, Kobe fell out with some people who were instrumental in that success. This spat led to Shaquille O’Neal being traded by the Lakers while the Coach, Phil Jackson, left.

At that time, Kobe was wearing the #8 jersey, a period he described as his wild days. He switched to #24 and became the true leader that we all knew. Let it be known that the Los Angeles Lakers went on to retire both Kobe jerseys #8 and #24 after his retirement and no player will ever don either jersey numbers as far as the Lakers are concerned.

Kobe wanted more championship titles. Although he and Jackson had lots of issues, he was instrumental in the Lakers’ decision to rehire Jackson, who is arguably the best coach in NBA history.

 

Phil Jackson transformed Kobe into one of NBA's all-time greatest 

With Jackson in the driving seat and Kobe in the greatest form of his career, the Lakers went to three straight finals (2008-2010) and won two (2009 and 2010).
This shows one aspect of Kobe Bryant - winning was the ultimate goal. Personal feelings were secondary.

He was so obsessed with breaking Michael Jordan’s record of six championships. He continued to work hard at the same level even when he got older. His body could not take all that stress, leading to many injuries.

He could not take it anymore and finally called it quits in 2016; but as we all know, the Black Mamba would not leave quietly. He scored 60 points in his last NBA game when the Lakers played the Utah Jazz. It was a statement to the basketball world that he was the best and still got game.

More than legendary
Using the word legendary to describe Kobe Bryant would be an understatement.

Kobe was an inspirational figure of hard work to football (soccer) players, teams and tennis players. He was a movement, a culture, a way of life and the blueprint for success.

The Black Mamba is out but he will continue to live forever.

The writers are NBA fans who idolise Kobe Bryant.