Kobe Bryant: The Mamba Mentality Lives On

This past Sunday, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41 years old, and his daughter Gianna Bryant, 13 years old, and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California while traveling to her travel basketball game.

This past Sunday, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41 years old, and his daughter Gianna Bryant, 13 years old, and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California while traveling to her travel basketball game.

The entire NBA and basketball community worldwide has mourned these tragic losses, with players, teams, and fans paying tribute to the “Black Mamba” and his daughter in the games over the subsequent days. Across the league, teams have taken eight-second backcourt violations and 24-second shot clock violations (referencing Bryant’s two jersey numbers throughout his career); players wearing eight and 24 on their backs are beginning to informally retire his numbers by changing their numbers. Fans have flocked to arenas wearing Bryant’s vintage Lakers jersey. The NBA also postponed a matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center, Bryant’s former stomping grounds as a Lakers’ player. The NBA previously had only postponed games for non-weather reasons after the Boston Marathon Bombings in 2013 and the Kennedy assassination in 1963, thus showing how devastating Bryant’s passing was throughout the NBA.

As an 18-time NBA All-Star, five-time champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Bryant achieved every imaginable accomplishment. From scoring 81 points against Toronto up until his grand finale of 60 points and all the incredible clutch plays in between, Bryant relentlessly amazed and inspired basketball fans. We saw that talent and ambition in his daughter, Gianna, as well, who had the potential to play for the University of Connecticut's Womens Basketball team and eventually help lift the WNBA one day. Their similarities in talent, skill, and mindset made their relationship special. She wanted to be the one to carry on Bryant’s legacy, and it’s truly heartbreaking now that she will never fulfill these dreams.

What made Bryant so special was that his influence extended beyond the basketball court, as his unparalleled dedication and drive as well as his off-court successes inspired people across the world, regardless of their interest in basketball. Bryant’s successes are a product of his “Mamba Mentality,” the never-relenting drive to be a better version of oneself. He applied this mindset into his 20-year career with the Lakers as he did not let his infamous “airball game” or feud with Shaq derail his confidence and development, rather he learned from these failures and evolved his game. However, Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” helped him thrive after retirement. Not long after his last game, he launched a successful investment firm, and he also won an Academy Award for the best short film, titled Dear Basketball, a tribute to his career. He published a biography, titled The Mamba Mentality, and created a children’s novel series to promote learning and sports for kids. He found a new passion in storytelling and thus paved a new path for retired athletes outside of sports. But most importantly, his retirement allowed him to focus on family. He dedicated time towards coaching Gianna’s basketball team, and when courtside at NBA games with her, he would give pointers to the young star. It seemed like he was finally at peace and able to focus on what truly meant the world to him. He applied his “Mamba Mentality” to his pursuits as a student, a player, a leader, a businessman, a coach, a storyteller, and a father. Although the vast majority of us will never play in the NBA or win an Academy Award, we can honor Bryant by applying this mentality to our own daily lives and long term objectives.

Bryant not only inspired the world, but also the surrounding Southern California community who grew up cheering for him in the Lakers’ iconic purple and gold. Josh Cigoianu ’22 reflected on what Bryant meant to him personally and what lessons Bryant passed on to him: “I lived most of my entire life before Lawrenceville in Manhattan Beach, CA, a community about an hour away from Staples Center. Kobe Bryant was a hero, icon, and legend in every Southern California community, regardless of if they liked the Lakers or even basketball in general. Bryant was unhateable. He was the kindest, most charismatic person, and if people ever had a problem with him throughout his career, it was because he saw more in them than they saw in themselves and pushed them to be better.

For kids like me, he was someone to emulate. Kids around the world looked up to him because of his character. There was simply nothing more inspirational than seeing Bryant lead his team on the floor, night-after-night, always laser-focused on one thing: winning. It was spectacular. It was inhuman. It was absolutely admirable.

After I found out about Bryant’s death, it felt like I lost a part of my childhood. Memories of watching and idolizing him as I grew up flooded my mind and shook me to the core of my being. When I heard his daughter Gianna, as well as the seven other fatalities from the crash, I crumbled. For every aspiring, dreaming young boy and girl, Bryant was the ultimate role model for what it meant to love what you do, love the work it takes to be the best at it, and love those around you at the same time.

In that moment, it felt as if my role model was gone forever, but I was wrong. Bryant’s death has opened my eyes. First of all, it’s amazing to see just how many lives Bryant touched. Just like his life and humanity served as my inspiration, everyone has a Bryant story about his impact. By changing so many lives worldwide, Bryant’s legacy will continue to live on forever. Second of all, life’s fragility has never been clearer to me, as one fateful incident tore apart the happy and united Bryant family in an instant: Mamba’s death. It's important to love those closest to you and resolve all the hate in our lives. Now I see [that] Bryant will never really be dead; his legacy will live on forever in his records, his stories, and all the people he has ever touched and changed for the better. Now it’s up to us to continue honoring his legacy through hard work, love, and embodying the ‘Mamba Mentality.’”