The Resilience and Errectiveness of Kobe Bryant's Black Mamba Mentality
Although some may argue against the greatness of Kobe Bryant, after 20 seasons in purple and gold Kobe Bryant had an outstanding career in the NBA, proving himself as one of the all time greats by having one of the best work ethics, evolving with the game of basketball, and overcoming injury and hardships during his tenure with the Lakers. Many may say this man worked harder or that man worked harder, but at the end of the day Kobe Bean Bryant was one of the hardest workers the NBA has ever seen. One example of Bryant’s insane work ethic was when he said after he won his 5th NBA Championship, he went right back into the gym to start his offseason grind early while his teammates were still basking in the glory of winning the title. Kobe’s mentality played a huge role in how he was able to outwork and outplay others on the court whether it was in a pick-up game or when the Lakers needed him the most. Bryant once said, “The most important thing is you must put everybody on notice that you’re here and you are for real. I’m not a player that is just going to come and go. I’m not a player that is going to make an All-Star team one time, two times. I’m here to be an all-time great. Once I made that commitment and said, ‘I want to be one of the greatest ever’, then the game became everything for me” (Gaines). Kobe’s ‘Mamba Mentality’ and constant work were truly what made him one of the greatest ever like he aspired to be.
Being the Black Mamba helped Kobe not only continue to work as if his life depended on it, it also allowed him to cancel out all the outside noise about his personal life. As his new alter-ego came out, so did a new side of Bryant on the court. He commented on the Black Mamba’s creation saying when he stepped on the court that, “It was just f*** everyone. I’m destroying everybody that steps on that court. I had all this pent-up frustration that I just needed to let out. It was an avalanche, man. There was nothing that was going to get in the way. There was nothing that was going to stop me” (Gaines). As Kobe Bryant continued to work his tail off, all of that hard work started to pay off. In 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe had an insane number of accolades and achievements in that time frame. From the beginning of his career he instantly showed glimpses of the greatness to come by being named to the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team in 1997, and also winning the Slam Dunk Contest that same year, even though he was not named to the All-Star Team that year.
But as Bryant’s mentality has shown, being cut short of the All-Star didn’t stop him at all. The Black Mamba would go onto be named to the All-Star Team a total of 18 times in his tenure with the Lakers (NBA).Being known for his bounce early on was just one way Kobe was able to be one of the best pure scorers the league has ever seen. As the game evolved around Bryant, he evolved with it. Kobe would continuously practice the same shots, same moves, and same situations until he reached absolute perfection. One sign of this repetition paying off his Kobe’s career free throw percentage. His overall percentage is tallied at a beautiful 83.7%, according to NBA.com, one of the best percentages by a player who was in the game for so long.
Getting to the charity stripe was yet again just one of the many ways Bryant emerged as a ruthless scorer. On the evening of January 22, 2006, Bryant would truly make his mark in the NBA, and prove he deserved the hype surrounding his name. Right from the tip, Kobe knew he would be able to rip any man in front of him to shreds and score with ease. That night Kobe Bryant scored a career-high of 81 points versus the Toronto Raptors, just 19 points short of Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 100 points (NBA). This wasn’t the last scoring outbreak we would see from Bryant though. Even in the finale of Bryant’s legendary career he still went out in the most Kobe way possible, scoring an impressive 60 points to secure a narrow victory of the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center on April 14, 2016 (NBA). In his 20 years in the league, scoring was not the only Bryant was able to do well. Although he is often joked about for never passing, he finished his career with a solid average of 4.7 assists per game.
His greatest passing performance came on January 15, 2015 against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers when Bryant managed to dish out an impressive 17 assists (NBA). Also known as a lockdown perimeter defender, Kobe accumulated a lot of steals throughout his career. The Black Mamba pickpocketed a nice 1.4 steals a game over his career. Of these 1.4 per game, Kobe took the ball away the most from his opponents in 2006 versus the Jazz when he acquired 7 steals that night (NBA). Although the Black Mamba did a great amount in his lengthy career, some of his greatness was cut short when he suffered both major and minor injuries.
Most of these came towards the end of his career, one of the worst being when he tore his achilles. “In the moments prior to playing in his first game following an Achilles’s injury that would have ended the career of most, Kobe reflected between two photos of Magic Johnson” (Gaines). Being one of the few players in the NBA to come back from an achilles injury, shows the mental toughness, and also physical toughness, Bryant exerted in these times. Kobe spoke further on the toughness of injuries saying, “What I always try to do through injuries is not think about them because when the game itself is more significant than the injury you don’t feel the injury. The injury won’t get in the way because it is not important to you” (Gaines).
Having the ‘Mamba Mentality’ that Bryant has is one of the many reasons that he was always able to fight through and recover injuries he suffered, no matter how major or minor they were. Another reason Bryant was able to get a healthy yet speedy recovery was because he properly fueled his body. He knew that the game of basketball was a full time commitment for him, and in order to perform his best he ate what was best for him. Although the odds may have been against him at times, Bryant always fought through injuries, found a variety of ways to put the ball in the basket, and always found some way to motivate himself to push a little harder to prove that he was one of the greatest Lakers of all time, and also one of the greatest to ever play in the National Basketball Association.
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