Understanding What Fuels Kobe Bryant’s ‘Mamba Mentality’
To most, he is the source of inspiration behind two generations (and counting) of young men who never made it in professional basketball but aspired to achieve their hoop dreams anyways.
To others, he is the measuring stick of success, and the man responsible for showing us all how much hard work it takes to reach those goals.
Call me crazy, but my admiration of Bryant stretches beyond the sphere of basketball. I attempt to mimic his mannerisms in my day-to-day interactions with my friends and colleagues, while applying what he says in post-game press conferences and interviews to the grander scheme of life.
I felt uneasy watching Bryant register for Facebook in 2009 and felt the same way about him taking Twitter and Instagram by storm this past year. I worshipped him due to his opaqueness. The ethos of Kobe Bryant was that of a maniacal winner and not much else.
In a generation where players are more than eager to share parts of their personal lives through social media (see: World Peace, Metta), most of what we’ve learned about Bryant are through tales told by trainers about his meticulous work ethic. As I wrote about two weeks ago, Bryant was truly the last of his kind.
Throughout Bryant’s first decade and a half in the league, he was notorious for being a loner. His first tweet was appropriately: “the antisocial has become social.”
By beginning to share his life with us, he slowly shifted from the mythical Kobe Bryant to a relatable guy who just so happens to be extremely good at basketball.
As much as I enjoy Phil Jackson’s books, they provide me with the same trepidation as Bryant’s social media ventures. Jackson always seems to recall these wonderful anecdotes of Bryant and the rest of the players he’s coached, which is fine as they make for great reads; but for someone who places Bryant on a pedestal, having his coach humanize him is the scariest thing for me.
In his 2005 book, the Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, the Zen Master deemed Kobe “uncoachable.” But as we all know, the two reconciled and won two more championships together.
This time around, Jackson revealed that Kobe’s first words upon Michael Jordan were “you know I can kick your ass one on one.” Classic Kobe.
Jackson also shared that one of the biggest differences between Jordan and Bryant is their ability to lead. Jackson attributed Bryant’s inferior leadership qualities to the fact that Bryant never had a chance to fully develop his social skills in college.
Everyone is putting the spotlight on Jackson’s comparison of Bryant and Jordan, and rightfully so. However, Rick Fox’s two cents on the greatest shooting guard of all-time debate shouldn’t be overlooked.
We’ve all been a position where we must behave ourselves appropriately around a superior at work or school, which is what Jackson was to Bryant. However, those who know us best tend to be the people who we act more naturally around, those who we deem to be on the same level as us, which is what Fox was to Bryant.
What Fox said is very telling of Bryant’s body of work. “I think Kobe competes with himself more than anything else…He’s obsessed with chasing the goals he set for himself at age 15 or 16.”
That means at some point during history class at Lower Merion High, a teenage Kobe was tuning out his teacher in order to chart his rise to become a NBA legend in his notepad.
It explains a lot of the more forgettable moments of Bryant’s career.
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