The top 5 moments that Kobe Bryant exemplified mamba mentality

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 11: (R) Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts alongside Mickael Pietrus #20 of the Orlando Magic in overtime of Game Four of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 11, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 11: (R) Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts alongside Mickael Pietrus #20 of the Orlando Magic in overtime of Game Four of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 11, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Somebody once said, “To sum up what mamba mentality is, it means to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself. That is what the mentality is.” That person was Kobe Bryant.

He went on to say, “It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday. Mamba mentality is all about focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most, it’s the ultimate mantra for the competitive spirit.”

Bryant lived and breathed that competitive spirit and used it to strike fear into the league for his entire career. It’s what made him Kobe. That fear, based on respect, most often times revealed itself as hatred from opposing players, coaches, and especially fans. So much so in fact that Nike created an ad perfectly describing the feelings of respect and admiration shrouded in hate.

He approached every single day, including the off days, with a ferocity and tenacity that truly set him apart in the moments that mattered most which resulted in the shooting guard out of Lower Merion High School becoming one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the sport, and a Laker legend.

With August in full swing thus begins the month of Mamba. Nike is continuing their “Mamba Week” campaign as well as celebrating Mamba Day, which falls on August 24th or 8/24, and in the spirit of the mamba mentality, I wanted to take a look back at five moments of his life and career that showed the world exactly what the Mamba mentality is.

Kobe Bryant’s revenge game (coaching)

To start off the list we look past Kobe’s career in the NBA and alternatively, take a look at his second act as a coach and father. It is no question that after Bryant’s career with the Los Angeles Lakers ended, he was built for the next chapter. Succeeding in business, coaching, and fatherhood (even winning an Oscar) came as no shock to all who enjoyed his illustrious career as he transferred the Mamba mentality into all facets of his life post-basketball.

Kobe had the distinct pleasure of coaching and mentoring his daughter Gianna and her basketball team, and his handprints were certainly easy to find. He said in an interview with SLAM in March of 2019, “The girls are making incredible progress. Just wait until you see us in six years,” he adds. “I have a year-by-year plan for them. We are going to keep adding pieces on a schedule I’ve already mapped out.” He truly cared for them.

Gianna’s game and competitive spirit mirrored her father’s and this trickled down to the rest of her teammates as well. In 2017 Gianna’s team faced a tough loss, losing 22-21. Although it was a crushing loss even at the age of 9, most players, coaches, and parents would shake it off; it was just children’s basketball. I’m not quite sure Kobe had it in his DNA to “shake off” losses.

In an Instagram post two years later, Bryant shared just how seriously he, and the rest of the girls, took things.

Even though at the surface level this is just a picture of some girls jumping and celebrating a massive win, for those that know the backstory, it’s almost eerie how much you can sense Kobe’s win-at-all-costs mentality seeping through the picture.

Lakers vs Blazers April 14th, 2004

In 2004 as the season was winding down before the playoffs, taking a foot off the gas was the last thing Kobe and the Lakers could afford. Although a Lakers team featuring Kobe, Shaq, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone already had the playoffs locked up, where they fell seeding-wise was still very much in question.

If Los Angeles won and Sacramento lost it would lock up the #2 seed in the West. If LA lost, they would fall as far as the #4 seed. Kobe Bryant was not going to allow that to happen.

In a back-and-forth game that the Blazers certainly didn’t want to lose either, Portland gave the Lakers everything they could handle. The Trailblazers lead for the majority of the game even into not just the first, but second overtime as well. Kobe had something to say about the outcome.

Down three and with 8 seconds left on the clock for number 8, the Mamba decided to do what he did best. Take the heart out of an arena. As he got inbounded the ball his change of directions and handles weren’t enough to shake his defender, so he shot right through him sinking the game-tying 3 to extend the game into its first OT.

In the first overtime period, Shaq did a lot of the heavy lifting scoring 6 of LA’s 8 points and capping it off with the tying dunk to force yet another overtime (off a Kobe assist). O’Neal unfortunately, fouled out in the second overtime putting all the pressure on Bryant. High-pressure situations, however, were one of Kobe’s elite specialties.

The game was tied with 1-second remaining, and I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Off of an inbound pass from Gary Payton, Kobe comes running off a screen, caught the ball, and hit one of the most electric shots of his entire career sealing both the game and the #2 seed in the West.

Game 4 vs Phoenix 2006

Los Angeles was taking on the Phoenix Suns led by Steve Nash and company when Bryant made magic happen on the floor of Staples Center once again. Up 2-1 in the series, they faced a pivotal game 4 where a win would essentially secure the series giving them a 3-1 lead, and a loss resulting in a whole new series making it 2-2. Unfortunately, despite the Lakers’ win, the Suns were able to recover and complete the 3-1 comeback.

That in no way takes away from the moment we saw. Kobe once again took the game into his hands and delivered a masterpiece. He finished with 24 points and 8 assists (fitting) and propelled the team to victory on back-to-back shots that both tied and eventually won the game.

The first shot was a tough floater driving the baseline with just 7.9 seconds left to tie the game, but he wasn’t done there. As Nash was driving down the court he got tied up with Luke Walton which forced a jump ball at center court.

Off of the jump, Kobe recovered the loose ball and went into Mamba mode. He took the ball across halfcourt, made his way to his spot like he always does, and sunk the game-winner over Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. That shot not only solidified his role in the league as an assassin but also provided us with his iconic celebration of pulling back his jersey to reveal his ‘heart’.

Free throws after Achilles tear

In the 2013 season, the Lakers had quite a lot going on. The previous summer the team went out and made major splashes acquiring both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to form the next iteration of a Los Angeles ‘super team’.

Hindsight is 20/20 and we all know what a colossal failure that team ended up being. Regardless, the Lakers still had a chance to squeeze into the playoffs that season, and in game 79 of 82, Kobe was faced with one of the most difficult moments of his career.

With just a little over three minutes remaining in the game, the Lakers found themselves down two to the Golden State Warriors. As Bryant turned the corner on a drive around Harrison Barnes, he strangely and suddenly fell to the floor with little to no contact leaving everyone in the arena holding their breaths.

As we now know, he ruptured his Achilles which is a devastating injury to any athlete. Most players when faced with those circumstances would have no problem stepping off the court and letting the head coach choose who would enter the game to take the free throws. Not Kobe Bryant.

The Mamba instead, stayed on the court, and in an act of heroism and defiance of reality chose to limp himself to the free-throw line, square up, and knock down both free throws. In an interview with Dave McMenamin, Kobe had this to say, “I’d say in terms of a moment, it’s right up there at the top because of what we went through as a team — all the injuries we went through as a team. For me, I just felt like, just go up there and make them. You can’t let your team down. If you’re going to shoot them, you better make sure you make them.”

60 points finale

On November 29th, 2015, the Mamba announced his retirement from the game of basketball signaling the end of one of the most illustrious and successful careers in NBA history. After everything he had done for the game, it was only right that every arena gave him quite a farewell in the form of videos and speeches.

The season apart from its special nature was one to forget. The Lakers finished with an abysmal record of 17-65 thus ushering in the lottery era for the franchise. While there wasn’t much to gawk at team-wise, it was certainly special to see the league vet get the flowers and respect he was due for his body of work.

Leading into the last game of the season, in an interview on TNT with his ex-teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant was asked one simple question, “Can you go out and give me 50?” To which Kobe responded sheepishly, “Uh…no.” In the final game of his career, the Lakers were set to take on the Utah Jazz at home in a grand finale of sorts.

After a slow start to the game, Bryant quickly found his rhythm and started emptying a tank that had been running for the last 20 years. Scoring an array of shots all over the court from threes to midrange daggers, to tough layups in the lane he found himself passing Shaqs expectations in the form of 51 points with a little under two minutes remaining. He wasn’t done there.

The score was still not in the Lakers’ favor despite Kobe’s herculean effort, but there was still time left on the clock. In an act of defiance of his age, and in front of Shaq, Kanye West, Snoop Dog, Jay-Z, and others, he went on to score not only 9 more points to finish with 60 total, but put the Jazz away with seconds remaining with a pair of free throws.

Kobe capped off an all-time sports career in the only way he knew how, by channeling his inner Mamba Mentality and willing his team to victory. He will forever be remembered for his competitiveness, grit, and above all respect and admiration for the game he called home for so many years. Mamba out.