Remembering Kobe Bryant: forever live the Mamba Mentality

‘Everything negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise.” —Kobe Bryant

The tragic helicopter crash killing Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people on January 26th, was a stark reminder of how fragile life really is.

Bryant joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996, directly after his senior year of high school. It is hard to imagine being so young — the same age as CHS seniors — and having to face so much pressure. However, he rose to the occasion and went on to play for the Lakers for the next 20 years. During his time in the NBA, Bryant won five championships, was picked for the All-Star team 18 times, and was a two-time NBA final MVP winner. However, while most CHS students will not become NBA all-stars, “The Mamba mentality is transferable,” as Bryant himself said. Kobe’s example of preparation, diligence, and perseverance can be applied to high school, college and beyond.

“I heard the ball bouncing. No lights were on. Practice was at about 11, it was probably about 9, 9:30. And I go out to the court and I look, and there’s Kobe Bryant. He’s out there shooting in the dark. And I stood there for probably about ten seconds, and I said, ‘This kid is gonna be great,” longtime Laker player and coach Byron Scott told Business Insider in an interview.

This lesson is familiar to any CHS student who has put in extra time by staying up late or working on the weekends to get better at an activity they were passionate about. Whether it be band, theater, academics, or sports, students can all learn from Kobe’s example and carry it with them into their careers. No matter what jobs students have as adults, there will always be a metaphorical dark gym to go to in order to improve one’s jump shot.

While many knew Kobe Bryant’s achievements and legacy in the sport of basketball, fewer know his contributions outside the game. He wished to be known as more than a basketball player, and his life’s pursuits after basketball reflected that ambition. Richard Sherman, the San Francisco 49ers cornerback and a close friend of Bryant, reflected on his actions at a Wednesday Superbowl press conference.

“He was a great man, a great father, a great player. But I just felt like basketball was going to be the thing he was known least for once he was all said and done,” Sherman said. “He was finally starting to reach his peak outside of that. He wants to be known as a great father, a great businessman, a great philanthropist, and I know he was headed in that direction. It’s just sad that we won’t get to see its true potential come to fruition.”

One field that captured Bryant’s attention after retirement in 2016 was the world of storytelling. With the creation of production company Granity Studios, he followed that passion. Granity Studios released a multitude of creations while Bryant was alive: five books, a podcast, film shorts, and a documentary about Bryant’s basketball career. One of the film shorts, “Dear Basketball,” ended up winning an Academy Award in 2018. It followed Bryant all the way from his childhood to his eventual fame and success on the Lakers.

The film’s inspiration came from Bryant’s public announcement of his retirement in 2016, which read:

“You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream and I’ll always love you for it. But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer. This season is all I have left to give. My heart can take the pounding, my mind can handle the grind, but my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”

“Dear Basketball” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018. Bryant also shared his love for sports in his books, going beyond just basketball. He drew much of his inspiration from his daughters.

“A lot of it is observing them and listening to them talk about sports — some of the challenges that they face, trying to put those into the story,” Bryant said in a live streamed video in November.

Many of his books, from “The Wizenard Series: Season One” to “Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof,” place children as heroes/heroines in worlds filled with magic and sports. The combination reflected Bryant’s own passions and the message he wished to convey.

He also wrote “The Mamba Mentality,” in which he detailed his mentality going into games and his strategy in dealing with opponents.

After retiring, Bryant also devoted himself to his family, including coaching his daughter Gianna, who was a budding basketball star in her own right. Bryant not only started a basketball academy, but also an Orange County volleyball club for his older daughter Natalia. Bryant was a huge advocate for women’s and youth sports. He and his wife Vanessa created a foundation, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, to support youth sports. Bryant was also the official ambassador for After-School All-Stars, an organization that provides after-school sports programs.

Bryant thought he’d have the rest of his life to explore his passions after retiring from basketball. He wanted to build a name outside the sport, to be known as more than a great player. He was a loving husband, an enthusiastic storyteller, and a compassionate father. As the tributes flooded in and fans celebrated his legacy, it became clear how many Bryant had touched with his life’s work.

All the passengers on the helicopter on Jan. 26 — coaches and young athletes with Bryant’s Mamba Academy — exemplified the Mamba mentality, pursuing their passions with dedication and hard work. The best way to honor the victims is for CHS students to live their lives the same way, and go after their passions with commitment and perseverance, even if it means spending extra hours in a darkened gym after everyone else has gone home.

As Kobe said, “The moment you give up is the moment you let someone else win.”