Growing up as a kid, I loved to watch and play sports. Being a New York Yankees and Knicks fan, guys like Derek Jeter and Carmelo Anthony were two of the few people that inspired me to become who I am today. Jeter and Anthony are mostly known by fans because of their amazing skills in baseball and basketball, but not a lot of people admire their work ethics. Even though I am a Knicks fan, and really should not root for any other team or players, how can people not admire a guy like Kobe Bryant and his legacy with the Lakers? As a kid, there were not many other basketball players or teams I wanted to root for other than the Knicks, but watching Kobe Bryant, on a late-night with my dad, was always something I looked forward to. Also, taking a break from school and playing hoops in my driveway was the only way I could try and be like him. As a nine-year-old boy, I always wanted to carry myself the way that Kobe did in all aspects of my life. He was my idol.
Kobe Bryant was a legend in the game of basketball. His mindset and determination to win separate him from most. Due to his ingenious work ethic, a lot of people consider him to be the greatest basketball player to ever live. I never really understood how he became so good at basketball. At the time, I obviously realized that he practiced a lot, but there was just something special about the way he played the game. Specifically, the way he slithered through the court and struck when it was most important. It reminded me of a poisonous snake ready to strike its prey. No wonder why he gave himself the famous nickname “Black Mamba.” Watching him play towards the end of his career, I could tell that Kobe was focused more on the mental side of sports rather than the physical side. This mindset quickly became known among fans and people all around the world as the “Mamba Mentality.” The phrase “Mamba Mentality” has a lot of meaning to it. From reading Kobe’s book, the one huge idea that I took from it was that he was able to accomplish so much and remain so focused on a singular task—to be great at basketball. In his book, Kobe stated, “I liked challenging people and making them uncomfortable. That’s what leads to introspection and that’s what leads to improvement. You could say I dared people to be their best selves.” This mentality and mindset truly proves how devoted Kobe was to not only the game of basketball but life in general.
With the “Mamba Mentality,” Kobe made it apparent that as important as basketball was to him, his daughters came first. For instance, he spent his final years mentoring his daughter Gianna and coaching her youth basketball team. Earlier in the 2016 season, there was a video that went viral in which Kobe was sitting courtside at a game with Gianna at a Lakers game. It looked like he was teaching her about some sort of play that was going on during the game. I do not just see this clip as a one-time teaching moment where Kobe casually points something out during the game to Gianna. For me, it is something much more meaningful: a father setting up his daughter for success and passing his wisdom onto someone who shared the same passion for the game as he once did. Since my Dad and I always watched sports together, he would always talk about how certain NBA teams played. For instance, he thought that the way the head coach, Greg Popovich, and the San Antonio Spurs played basketball was a more classic way of playing. He pointed to me that most teams today are not as physical on defense as other teams once were and just shoot the ball rather than playing like a team. My dad helped me become a better overall person because of this in terms of learning how to take time and analyze certain situations in life. From this experience, I can definitely see why Kobe was perceived as a great father figure by his friends and family.
Even though Kobe is constantly seen as a family man, there is a gray area in his life. In 2003, he was staying at a hotel in Colorado called The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera and was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman who worked there. Kobe was at the hotel because he was going to receive surgery near there on July 2. He stated that the encounter with the hotel employee was consensual. She said differently. The woman did not take this case to court after receiving many death threats from basketball fans and Kobe paying her a large sum of money to stay quiet about the whole situation. The question still remains whether or not Kobe actually sexually assaulted her. In 2016, Kobe recognized the magnitude of his mistake and sent out a heartfelt apology to the public. According to Dave Zirin of The Nation, Kobe said, “Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado.” The fact that Kobe owned up to his mistake was very noble of him. It is also something my generation does not see a lot of today from athletes who have made similar mistakes. For me, even though this is a really tough situation for people to remember, I still acknowledge how Kobe carried himself after the incident and went on with his life.
Not many people can ever display how much they loved something, as much as Kobe loved basketball. To study something so precisely for so many years the way he did is almost impossible to mimic. For most people, they will never even achieve a fraction of what Kobe did in 41 years. The “Mamba Mentality” may not be relatable to everyone, and that’s okay. That’s why Kobe Bryant is “Kobe Bryant,” and everyone else is just everyone else.
James Millard – Senior at Bronxville High School – will be attending Marist College