Source: "The Conductor: Kobe Bryant" by Nike
Even until now, I still can’t connect the word “death” with Kobe Bryant’s name.
When I first read about Kobe’s helicopter accident at 4.30am on Monday, I refused to believe it. I frantically searched for other sources on the web to confirm it. I was crushed when the reality of it all hit me.
Sitting on the sofa, I was dumbfounded: “Kobe Bryant? How could this be possible? The 41-year-old barely retired a few years ago, and his best days are still ahead of him!
“LeBron just overtook his third position on the all-time scoring list and this happened?”
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
That was Kobe’s last tweet the night before the accident, congratulating LeBron for surpassing him on points. 33643 points over 20 years – that’s even more than Michael Jordan!
As I reflect on the passing of a basketball legend, ridiculous numbers like that remind me of just how big a giant Kobe was. It also brings to mind how former teammate Shaquille O’Neal once asked Kobe at the start of his career about what he wanted to be.
Kobe’s reply was this: “I’m going to be the best player in the world, and off the court I’m going to be bigger than Will Smith.”
20 seasons later, Kobe would retire as a 5x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP), an NBA MVP, a 2x scoring champion… the list of accolades go on.
And, off the court, Kobe became a pioneer in areas like tech investment, and was notably the first basketball player to win an Academy Award for his short-film Dear Basketball.
Even though Kobe’s gone, what remains isn’t just the memory of him bringing five championship titles to the LA Lakers, but the Mamba Mentality he championed.
You may have heard Kobe’s iconic phrase tossed around a lot. But what exactly does Mamba Mentality mean?
HARD WORK OUTWEIGHS TALENT – EVERY TIME
Kobe took on the nickname of “Black Mamba”, after the dangerous assassin in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill. “When I step on that court, I become that. I am that killer snake. I’m stone cold, man,” said Kobe in a 2015 interview.
In Kobe’s own’s words, Mamba Mentality is this: “Hard work outweighs talent – every time. Mamba Mentality is about 4am workouts, doing more than the next guy and then trusting in the work you’ve put in when it’s time to perform. Without studying, preparation and practice, you’re leaving the outcome to fate. I don’t do fate.”
Kobe once said that he never wanted to waste a day or moment in his life. He was an athlete who would wake up at 4am in the morning and go to the gym at 5am to practise and perfect his craft.
He was also a warrior. I think back to the game when Kobe ruptured his Achilles tendon during a foul call. While most players would immediately leave the game in pain for treatment, Kobe went on to complete the two free throws awarded from the foul before exiting the game – even though an Achilles tendon rupture is one of the worst injuries for basketball players!
I have a profound admiration for Kobe’s intentionality and devotion to hard work. It’s a principle we consistently see in elite sporting athletes.
And while he might not have been my favourite player of all time, I know that his tenacity for the game was unmatched. His discipline and intentionality is something we can all learn from.
What the Mamba Mentality means for me is an urgency to treat each moment in my life with the same seriousness Kobe did.
MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT
Time is fleeting, and we cannot take things – indeed life – for granted.
Just like Shaq or LeBron can tell you, you never know when someone will be gone from your life. So reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. Intentionally ask them how they’ve been. Give them a hug. Take them out for a meal. Show some love.
As I come to terms with the fact that one of the true basketball greats is gone, I come back over and over again to the sobering realisation that I cannot take my responsibilities lightly. I must approach the Christian life with a Mamba Mentality, which is to seize every day.
And what might that look like? Well, if God puts in your heart, a name – someone you know who needs to hear about the message of salvation – don’t hold back in reaching out to that person. We can’t give up the race even though it seems difficult or just because we’re lazy.
It’s an Ephesians 5:16 kind of life – we must redeem the time.
Before Kobe’s last game, Shaq challenged him to score 50 points. Kobe outdid that number scoring 60 points in his final game before retirement. And he did this at 36 years old, something players in their prime rarely do.
Other players might be focused on other things like staying healthy or not embarrassing themselves. But not Kobe. Kobe’s focus was on finishing well. His last game was true Mamba Mentality – leaving with a legacy.
As a 25-year-old guy, Kobe’s example has really inspired me in my own life. How can I possibly sit back and relax? I’m going to go hard, and I’m going to finish well. I’m going to live life the way Kobe did – making every moment count.
Thank you for everything, Black Mamba. Rest easy.