Mamba Mentality: How Kobe Bryant Taught Us More About Life Than Basketball

By now, you’ve seen and heard that NBA legend and future Hall of Famer (to be inducted this year) Kobe Bryant has passed very unexpectedly. The retired Los Angeles Lakers superstar player (who last played in 2016 after 20 seasons), perished in a helicopter accident Sunday morning in Calabasas, CA. Before I go any further, I want to respect the others who passed alongside him as well. As you read on, you’ll see this isn’t so much a “Kobe Bryant” piece, but a “Life” piece. Without further adieu…

RIP KOBE BRYANT.

RIP GIANNA BRYANT.

RIP JOHN ALTOBELLI.

RIP KERI ALTOBELLI.

RIP ALYSSA ALTOBELLI.

RIP SARAH CHESTER.

RIP PAYTON CHESTER.

RIP CHRISTINA MAUSER.

RIP ARA ZOBAYAN.

With the shock still so fresh in my mind, and certainly yours as well, we are faced with the realization of our own mortality. If our heroes can die tragically, and be gone from our lives forever in the blink of an eye, what about our own lives? What about the ones we know personally and love as well? Just as life is real every day we live and breathe, death is just as real, being able to strike anyone at any time. We know this, and yet, we don’t always live that way. We take life for granted.

If you were to ask someone if they will live forever, they would probably laugh at you and admit to knowing they will die someday, perhaps even unexpectedly. But people don’t always believe that. They think (or live everyday) as if it won’t happen to them. Or they don’t plan for a future without them being in it. Sometimes, people live so precariously because of the uncertainty, that acting as such is actually helping them meet their end sooner rather than later. They don’t care.

Life and death, it’s quite the fine line, isn’t it?

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Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

When Kobe Bryant played, he had all the accolades you could want. He left the game as the third all-time leading scorer (ironically enough, passed by Lebron James the very night before his untimely death). Kobe won 5 NBA Championships with the Lakers. He won Finals MVP twice. He won the regular season MVP in 2008, twelve years after entering the league as an 18 year old. Kobe would become an 18 time All-Star. Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. And all of these numbers couldn’t save him. I don’t mean this in any negative way. I mean this in the way of, he was still human. He was still susceptible to death. Life, as it would seem.

It doesn’t matter if you’re homeless or a millionaire living in a mansion. You could be Joe Smith, 90 year old U.S. Army Veteran who served in World War II and meet your untimely end by slipping and falling at home. You could be Kobe Bryant, NBA Legend. You could be… you. We all share the same fate. The thing that separated Kobe from the rest of us (minus the millions, superhuman athletic ability and the fame, of course), is his outlook on life.

I’m talking about Mamba Mentality.

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Kobe Bryant discussing Mamba Mentality to Business Insider

Mamba Mentality stems from the Mamba snake. The head. The leader. The true killer. If you want to achieve success at its highest level, you have to have that killer instinct. You have to push yourself over and over again. In order to succeed, whether it is basketball, your job, your hobby, or just living life to your true potential, you need to come out on top. You don’t get there by luck. It’s putting in the work. The time. The effort. Mamba Mentality.

Kobe Bryant was known as the Black Mamba. He was this way on and off the court. After giving everything he had the Los Angeles Lakers organization for twenty years, he went on to have a successful “second career” of sorts. He became very active in his children’s lives, coaching and running academies for his daughter Gianna’s basketball playing. When the helicopter abruptly went down, it was because they were in route for one of her tournament games.

He won an Oscar for writing and executive producing an animated movie short, titled “Dear Basketball.” He traveled all over during the subsequent NBA seasons, becoming the ultimate fan, high fiving, hugging, even working out with and challenging players in the off-season to obtain Mamba Status. Last year, my hometown Milwaukee Bucks had the regular season MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Not many people know this, but during the off-season, Giannis was wanting to work out with Kobe and even asked him for a goal to set. Kobe said just one thing: MVP. Giannis went out and got himself an MVP trophy (and the heavy favorite to repeat).

The Black Mamba did more for others in life than he ever could in basketball. Was he someone who had mistakes in his past? Absolutely. Is he someone who had said and done things he regretted? Without a doubt. Did he learn from them and make amends? Yes. I can say with more than a tinge of regret, that I too have put myself in situations I never should have. And that I certainly did the crime and paid the time a few times over. It’s how you react to those decisions that matter. Because at the end of the day, we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. Whether bigger or smaller, some more than others.

You need to crawl before you can ball.

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Kobe Bryant, NBA Champion

Kobe Bryant balled out. Every single game. That’s a fire that can’t be taught. You either have it or you have to find it somewhere inside you. There is something in all of us that burns so deep that defines us. It’s up to us to find it within. Kobe Bryant found out firsthand the sanctity of marriage and how precious it is to have someone stand by you after you commit adultery. His wife, Vanessa (who now survives Kobe with three children), stuck by his side and I’m quite sure, was ridiculed and harassed for doing so. The accused notwithstanding from the 2003 incident and court proceedings and aftermath, all women go through it. At some point, they become the head snake. They become the queens and the leaders and the strong absolutely survive. Mamba mentality.

I know I’ve touched on quite a few topics in this article, but Kobe’s death has me and the rest of you I’m sure, feeling all different types of ways as well. So many questions about what happened and then also, wondering further, what will happen to Vanessa and the kids? What will happen to our own lives? Did they have a moment beforehand to have their life flash before their eyes? In having this accident happen to such a public figure, it gets magnified ten times over. Because of the coverage and celebrity status, the tragedy of life itself is brought to the forefront.

There have been tears shed. There have been thoughts of disbelief and prayers of “Why Him, Why Now?” There has been so much in these past few days, that you know, eventually, we will all have to move on. We all have to go back to work. We all have to go home. We all have to say goodbye, too, at some point. But don’t let life get in the way, of living a FULL life. Get after what you really want. Have that mindset that no one will stop you from writing that book. Or starting your own company. Or doing whatever it is you truly want to in life. Kobe Bryant did just that. He was 41 years old and had another lifetime to go.

Mamba Out.