NHL Column: Mamba and Ovechkin  


The Mamba Mentality is a philosophy not only apparent on the court, but a way of life influential beyond the world of basketball. As Sunday’s devastating news of Kobe Bryant’s death broke, the outcry of sorrow and disbelief was blaring. The loss of a seemingly immortal figure, respected across the world, is impossible to comprehend.  

The passing of Bryant injected shock into those who parallel the name Kobe with greatness, triumph and success. The Mamba Mentality is a mantra that inspires people to achieve in all lines of work, and in any circumstances of life.  

The hockey world shared these sentiments with the rest of the world, as some of its own greatest icons grieved in the magnitude of this terrible tragedy. Alexander Ovechkin, one of hockey’s largest figures, expressed how Bryant’s death left him deeply heartbroken when addressing the media on Sunday.  

Ovechkin spoke about how he was simply proud that such a remarkable athlete like Bryant recognized him in their previous encounters. Via Twitter, he shared a couple pictures of the two of them embracing, expressing just how much Kobe impacted him as a person and player.  

In 2016, Ovechkin posted a picture of an autographed jersey and shoes he received from Bryant, showing his adoration for the basketball legend. Kobe wrote, “To Alex, one of the all-time greats.” 

For a star of Ovechkin’s stature to express that he was somewhat starstruck by the presence of Bryant signifies the meaning of his legacy. That is something that is not accomplished solely by performance on the court, but by the extent of their influence.  

Ovechkin, who dons the same No. 8 that Kobe wore for 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, certainly appears to be a star that understands what it means to live by the Mamba Mentality that made Bryant the person that he will be remembered as. It is because of this approach that Ovechkin has been able to become as prevalent to hockey as Kobe was to basketball.  

The necessary level of preparation that Ovechkin has learned over the course of his career has allowed him to become a progressively better player over time. And this is talking about someone who has been one of the best in the league since his rookie season. Yet, he has still managed to improve his overall game in ways that are not simply recognized in on-ice skill.  

NHL great Alex Oveckin has carried the ideology of a Mamba Mentality throughout his career as inspired by Kobe Bryant. Kobe’s life will be long remembered for this same mentality.  Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.

NHL great Alex Oveckin has carried the ideology of a Mamba Mentality throughout his career as inspired by Kobe Bryant. Kobe’s life will be long remembered for this same mentality. Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.

The poise one must have to become a true giant of the sport reaches beyond the physical training that is automatic at such a high level of competition. The mental readiness, however, is what often sets apart the greatest achievers in the world.  

Alex Ovechkin for many years was labeled as someone who could not lead his team to a Stanley Cup. Repetitive years of playoff failures and falling short of a title stained his legacy. Despite his record setting performances on the ice, he was not recognized amidst the top stratosphere of sports legends.  

But through the philosophies of the Mamba Mentality, Ovechkin persisted, working earnestly to make himself better both mentally and physically. The intense passion that he put forth towards winning the Stanley Cup, coming to understand what it truly takes to accomplish such a feat, is why he was able to encompass the inspirational mentality.  

Ovechkin finally won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018. When he lifted the Cup, in that one encapsulating moment, the years put forth with this mentality were tremendously obvious. His screams of pure joy, complemented by his gray hair and beard of wisdom were evidence of the dedication it took to reach that moment. Journeys like that are what Kobe Bryant represents.  

Kobe and Ovechkin have plenty in common. Each are among the top scorers of all time in their respective sports. They are both icons of their trade. Each will be remembered, at least partially, as No. 8. Yet, their most striking commonality is their transcendent presence that has immortalized their names forever. It is in the presence they invoke, and through Mamba Mentality, that they reach unreachable heights.  

Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at dylan.barrett@uconn.edu. He tweets @dylan_barrett_.

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