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Mamba Mentality

When Kobe dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors in 2006, something changed. I knew he was a superstar and world class talent, but this game made me see him in a new light — as a basketball god. He made me question whether MJ was really the GOAT. He made me see that unrelenting focus and drive can lead to unbelievable greatness. That’s when I found my hero.

Mamba Mentality in action

When I first started watching basketball, it was more out of convenience since I was so young. I was around 6 or 7 when MJ and Reggie Miller would battle in the East. John Stockton and Karl Malone were dominant, along with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp for the SuperSonics, and the young duo of Tim Duncan and David Robinson were wreaking havoc with the Spurs. During this time, I was more interested in playing video games or outside with my friends, so I missed most of this great basketball. Then the Lakers played the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2000–2001 Finals and everything changed.

Kobe and Shaq were unstoppable and so in your face that I couldn’t stay away. Allen Iverson was also someone who caught my eye because I saw someone who was undersized (like myself), but lethal in every way possible (what I wanted to be). Even though I’m from Southern California, I didn’t like the Lakers too much because of the attitude Kobe and Shaq brought to the court. The more I watched the Lakers play, I began to have a change in opinion of this team. I learned about Phil Jackson and his history with MJ and Scottie Pippen. I began to understand why Kobe and Shaq were so fierce and imposing. The Mamba Mentality started to click with my brain.

Fast forward to 2007. The Lakers traded for Pau Gasol and were facing the Celtics in the NBA Finals. I learned so much about the history of the Laker franchise, but more importantly I learned how a true leader operated. From putting the team on his back by scoring almost as much as a single team scores in one game to lifting up teammates around him to get the best out of everyone on the court. The shift I saw in his playing, combined with how he talked about his approach to playing the Celtics was mesmerizing. From that season on, I became infatuated with everything he did — his swagger, his love for his team and the Lakers organization, and his love for his family all resonated with me.

To me, Mamba Mentality meant going 200% in everything you did, not just basketball. Seeing this night after night for years made me truly love and respect Kobe. Like compounding interest, the more I watched him, the stronger my passion for his work became. That’s why I can’t get over the fact that he’s gone. He was Superman. He was invincible. He was supposed to be playing basketball like Uncle Drew, crossing young people as an old man. Although his time here with us is over, his legacy will never die. So whenever you feel tired or ready to give up, don’t. When you think you’ve done everything you could have done to solve a problem, don’t stop trying. Do what Kobe would have done. Mamba out.

RIP Legend

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