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It has been more than a year since Kobe Bryant dropped 60 points in his final NBA game and dropped the mic in his farewell speech.
Yet, despite stepping away from the game he loves, Bryant’s competitive spirit and killer instincts are still alive in the NBA. We saw it in Kyrie Irving when he hit the game-winner in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals. We saw it in Devin Booker when he scored 70 points last season.
Bryant’s achievements as a player are without a doubt remarkable, but his true brilliance lies in the mindset he has preached to the younger generation of NBA stars, and is continuing to preach to those hungry for success.
Kobe Bryant in his last game in the NBA. Photo credit: AP/NBA
Always perceptive, Bryant has shared words of wisdom to fuel the Mamba Mentality. Here are some of them:
“You can't sit back and watch crime happen in front of you.”
The crime was an embarrassing 21-point loss to the Golden State Warriors in 2014. The Warriors led by as much as 38 points, handing the Los Angeles Lakers their ninth loss in the first 10 games. It was the worst start in Lakers franchise history. But Bryant wasn’t keen on being a mere witness to the crime. In 31 minutes, Bryant scored 44 points—the most he scored since he tore his Achilles the year before.
"Boos don't block dunks."
If you think boos can put a dent on Bryant’s universe, think again. Hate has followed Bryant’s every move since he was the brash kid out of high school hosting air ball parties in the playoffs until he became the guy squashing NBA scoring records. In 2013, Bryant perfectly put into words what boos are incapable of doing as the Lakers—with newly-acquired Dwight Howard—prepared to face a hostile crowd in a regular season game against the Orlando Magic. It was a game the Lakers won.
“Try to be the best version of yourself.”
Bryant was—or is—obsessed with greatness, that’s no secret. Here is proof: he once taught himself how to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano to play for his wife. Forget YouTube instructional videos, he taught himself “by ear.” The Mamba Mentality states: "If you just sit down and say, 'I'm going to learn this thing until I do, there's not really much out there that you can't figure out eventually."
“Despite fear, finish the job.”
If you’re as athletically-gifted and driven as Bryant, the only roadblock on the path to success is a career-ending injury. In 2013, Bryant faced what could’ve been the proverbial roadblock and turned it into a minor pothole, Mamba-style. Down two points with three minutes left in a crucial regular season game, Bryant went down with a ruptured left Achilles tendon. But instead of being carried off the floor, he stayed on the court, managed to shoot two free throws on one foot, then walked off on his own strength. The Lakers eventually won that game, 118-116.
“Being fearless means putting yourself out there and going for it.”
The Mamba Mentality is both a blessing and a curse for Bryant, making him one of the most polarizing superstars in the NBA. His fierce competitive drive and insane work ethic alienated him from his peers, but at the same time earned the respect of his rivals. When he embarked on his farewell tour in the 2015-2016 season, the narrative was clear: Kobe Bryant is okay with his decision to retire from the NBA. This is because he did everything he possibly could to succeed as a basketball player. On April 13, 2016, Bryant went for it one last time; it was the final brushstroke to the Mamba masterpiece: 60 points to lead the Lakers to a come-from-behind win.
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