On April 13th 2017, Kobe Bryant played his last professional basketball game with a farewell sendoff of 60 points and a comeback victory. The significance of that game to everyone from the Laker Land to basketball fans around the world is obvious. But what isn't discussed as much is the impact that the Mamba has had on areas outside of basketball; Kobe Bryant was my Confucius, my Lao Tzu.
After we celebrate the 5 championships, the 33,643 career points (3rd in NBA history), the 4 time all-star game MVP, 18 time all-star appearance, 2-time NBA Finals MVP, 2-time scoring champion, 81 points in a single game, 20 years of loyalty and even going as far as scoring at least 40 points once in a single game on EVERY NBA team in the league in his career... even after we've calmed down from all that there is still one main thing left about Kobe Bryant that I could never forget: The Mamba Mentality. And the Mamba Mentality is much more than just being a cold-blooded assassin.
This is the introductory quote to Kobe Bryant's 2015 Showtime Documentary Muse, and it is clearly something he practices as he often cold-calls celebrities and successful businessmen/women just to pick their brains. But perhaps what's more amazing is his ability to draw inspiration from ventures outside his own and apply them to his basketball game. Kobe has once spoke on the fact that he was extremely bored in his high school classes until one day he decided to approach each class with a different perspective: "How can I use what I'm learning to dominate on the basketball court?" When he was criticized for shooting too many shots, Kobe responded by comparing himself to Mozart, saying
His decision to go straight from high school to the NBA was also extremely significant in my decision to drop out of college to pursue rap. There is a huge societal pressure to attend college and people are often looked down upon if they do not receive a college degree in modern times. But if you know your passion and your craft, college may not necessarily be the answer. That is a decision only you can decide for yourself.
His path was clear and he knew the work he needed to do to succeed. That doesn't mean he never doubted his decisions though; he is human. There were times in his rookie season as a Laker when he would drive through UCLA campus and saw college kids hanging around as he wondered if he should have just went to college and partied with those kids. However his determination carried on, as stories began to surface of his "first in the gym, last one out" practices and his strict dieting. An 18 year old had eliminated sugar completely from his daily intake. #justkobethings
Even at 18, the Mamba was already lying dormant. The NBA is the mecca of basketball and everyone in the league wants to compete. But there are different levels of competition. Some are satisfied trying their best, or playing on par with the best players in the game, or scoring a certain amount of points per game. Then there's the one who aims to destroy the top from the very beginning.
Chilling. During Kobe's rookie year, Michael Jordan might as well have been the Sun. A very bright sun. In 1997, Jordan had won two championships back to back, with one of them being the 72-10 regular season record from 1995-1996. Kobe's teammate was right. Jordan's glory was too bright for mortals to even stare at. But not for Kobe Bryant. To me, this level of determination and self-belief was something I couldn't even believe existed. But to some, this may come across as arrogance. "Who the hell does this kid think he is, comparing himself to Jordan?"
And it was this perception that isolated Kobe from the rest of the world who weren't Lakers fans. Jordan was immortalized, and Kobe was a huge threat to his Airness' legacy. Throughout his entire career, everyone (including himself) has compared Kobe to Jordan and this resulted in Kobe receiving loud boos during his away games. But he loved it.
And this leads me to the most fascinating thing about the Mamba mentality: his comfort in isolation.
Kobe Bryant is undoubtedly the King of Los Angeles & Hollywood. Not only has he captured the hearts of the people in his city, but the hearts of musicians, actors and even athletes from other sports. Celebrities look at Kobe Bryant the way we look at celebrities! And yet, despite all the media attention surrounding him and fans of other teams booing him... he was able to keep to himself and find extreme comfort in solitude.
In my generation, that's almost unheard of. We're in such a fear of missing out on social gatherings or current events we have to be up to date to the very millisecond. We text friends to hangout 24/7 because it's we don't want to face our own thoughts and thrive on social media approval because we have all arrived at the very same conclusion Kobe has.
You can tell your friends that you'll be hitting the gym every week for a year and feel absolutely fine when you don't. You can tell your family that you're hosting major parties when you're really stuck at home watching Netflix and and never even blink. But try looking into the mirror and telling yourself you'll chase your life's dream starting next week. Then try looking into that mirror again a month later when you haven't done anything at all.
Somehow empty boasts and excuses will always work on friends and family (even strangers) because they care for you. But they will never work on yourself.
Kobe's determination and will to succeed is indeed the definition of crazy. He firmly believes that with enough determination and hard work, success is definite. He never really stop to put and actual value on how much determination and hard work is required. He just does it. Others may approach the same obstacle and declare that it's impossible... which I think is a form of craziness itself.
Guess I'd rather be crazy positive than crazy negative.
Kobe Bryant, I've had the pleasure of watching you since my junior high school days and it is my obsession with your Way of Thought that has made me the person that I am today. Thank you for the 15,000+ shots you've missed throughout your career, showing me you cannot be afraid to miss and lose on the path to greatness. Thank you for all you've done in your 20 year career in the NBA, and as you said in your final post game press conference there is a hero and villain in all of us. But from my perspective you are most definitely a hero. I hope you write a book someday.
To everyone else reading this, if you're ever suffering from a mental block or you're feeling discouraged I do recommend looking up some Kobe quotes or stories, especially this one right here. May his legacy live on as inspiration to all those staring at some incredibly daunting tasks.