The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
We tend to find comfort in consistency. With all of life’s uncertainties, there’s a relieving solace that comes with it.
Kobe Bryant was drafted in 1996, but from the moment he became a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers back in 1998, he was the embodiment of just that: consistency. No matter what you were dealing with personally, positive or negative, you knew that night in and night out, you could tune in and witness Kobe giving his absolute all on the basketball court. The obsessive work ethic and attention to detail that he displayed throughout his career wasn’t just something we heard about through stories, but something that was proven in his on-court execution. There’s a popular saying that goes, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” That was Kobe. Post-retirement, we witnessed that in his emergence as a producer and storyteller. After all, just two years after he left the NBA, he earned himself an Oscar.
“Mamba mentality” is a phrase that we were introduced to during his playing career, but it quickly evolved into a life approach for people all over the world — just as Kobe intended. There are endless moments throughout his 20-year NBA career that showcased this intense relentlessness and unmatched passion. Let’s run through a few.
Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals
The Lakers were leading this series 2-1, heading into game 4 against the Indiana Pacers. At the young age of 21, Kobe was unable to play in game 3 due to a sprained ankle, but decided to tough it out for this one. The game ended up going to overtime, and his partner-in-crime Shaq, fouled out late. With one good ankle, Kobe persevered through, playing a total of 47 minutes and completely took over down the stretch. His clutch performance put the Lakers in a prime position to win their first of three straight NBA titles.
2008 Olympic Gold Medal Game: Team U.S.A vs Spain
Big stages provide opportunities for athletes to shine brightest. In the 2008 Olympics, Team U.S.A had a special roster. Kobe was joined by young superstars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. Each of these players, now greats in their own right, stated that they looked up to Bryant and used this experience to study his game, workout regimen and overall approach to the sport. During their Olympic run, they got to see firsthand how that hard work paid off on the floor.
In 2008’s Gold Medal Game, Team U.S.A was in a close one down the stretch and Kobe’s leadership and late-game heroics were on full display, even amongst the best players in the world.
Lakers vs Warriors
Regular Season Game (April 12, 2013)
This game will always be remembered for how Bryant sadly tore his Achilles after an epic performance, but still made his way to the line to shoot free throws after the injury. This matchup took place at the end of the regular season, as the Lakers were still fighting to secure a final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Kobe carried the team throughout this season, and this performance was no different. Despite sustaining a gruesome season-ending injury, he played until he was physically unable in a game that would eventually secure the team’s spot in the postseason. Mamba Mentality at its purest.
Kobe’s Final Game
In sports, there are a handful of special moments where you think to yourself, “This couldn’t have been scripted any better.” Kobe’s final game was undoubtedly one of those occurrences.
The Lakers trailed the Utah Jazz for most of this game, but just as fans wanted, Kobe was shooting the ball whenever he got the chance. Despite a slow start, in the fourth quarter, things started to shift. The star athlete entered a zone that was so familiar to die-hard fans. By the end of the game, he had 60 points and had led another epic fourth-quarter comeback. This was an unforgettable performance from the Black Mamba.
Kobe In The Clutch
When talking about Kobe and his career, it would be remiss not to spend a little time focusing on his fearlessness in the clutch. He was willing to do whatever it took to win a game, and was willing to be the one to take the shot every time. His success in crunch time didn’t come out the gate.
We’re talking about a guy who made over 35 game-winning shots in his career. When you shoot that many times, inherently you’ll miss a lot, but that’s what he embraced. He believed that the next one was going to be a basket, and Kobe’s fan base believed it every time, too.
Early in his career, analysts, fans and fellow NBA superstars marveled at his dedication and how much the game meant to him. Today, all over the world, we marvel at how much Kobe means to the game.
I could write for hours about the moments in his career, where he showcased how legendary of a competitor he was, and I just might one day. But, in the grand scheme of things, what’s more important is what we take away from Kobe’s contributions during his lifetime. He was a born leader who inspired in so many different ways — as a father, husband, athlete, and mentor. Starting with his play, he instilled a mindset into an entire generation: Mamba Mentality. This video of Kobe sending words of encouragement to a fan’s mother who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, from just a few weeks ago, embodies what that is all about: Perseverance, dedication and belief.
Kobe once said, “The most important thing is to try and inspire people, so that they can be great at whatever they want to do.” In his typical fashion, he was successful in that pursuit.
The legacy of Kobe “Bean” Bryant, as well as the memories of his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and the other seven passengers who perished this past Sunday will never be forgotten.