Wait, is it actually Super Bowl week? I could hardly tell.
There is an obvious reason why there is less buzz around Super Bowl LIV than any I can remember. Sunday morning marked the end of the precious lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers of a helicopter that went down in Calabasas, California.
As a result, news outlets, sports and others have been focusing on mourning these deaths and celebrating the life of Bryant. Personally, I’ve found it difficult to write about anything besides Kobe this week.
At the Pro Bowl Sunday night, the NFL had a moment of silence in Bryant’s memory. Packers players Davante Adams and Za’Darius Smith also specialized their touchdown and sack celebrations in Kobe’s honor.
Super Bowl media day came and went Monday, with the only non-Kobe-related soundbyte coming from Tyreek Hill’s impression of his quarterback.
“Kermit the Frog, sounds just like that,” Hill said about Patrick Mahomes. He then joked that he wouldn’t get the ball anymore if he kept poking fun at his quarterback. “I can’t do that anymore. He won’t throw me the ball anymore.”
Lighthearted joking like this will help the world of sports heal following the tragedy.
Mahomes, who is typically referred to as a gunslinger, said to ESPN, “He made a big impact on my life for sure.”
Those who know basketball know that Bryant, too, was a gunslinger on the court.
Other Chiefs players also described Kobe’s impact on them.
“I had the opportunity to meet Kobe, and he’s just an unbelievable person,” Travis Kelce told Fox Sports. “You can’t say enough about who he was and his impact.”
“He’s one of my biggest idols,” Frank Clark, California native, said to NFL.com. “The one person I looked to for inspiration and strength when going through what I was going through growing up was Kobe Bryant.”
San Francisco 49ers players also explained to the media what the Black Mamba meant to them. Tight end George Kittle said that other than his parents, Kobe was the reason he played sports in the first place. In addition to football, Kittle played high school basketball in Norman, Oklahoma.
“Just his mindset, the ‘Mamba Mentality.’ I wore the No. 24 in high school in my freshman and sophomore year because of him and I wore Kobe Bryant shoes because of Kobe Bryant. Every time I laced up my basketball shoes I felt like I had Kobe Bryant with me; I had a little part of him,” Kittle said to Fox Sports. “I had his jumper, I had his fadeaway. The amount of hours I spent practicing that fadeaway from the corner, and I never made it! But I tried and I always thought I was Kobe. He was an icon. He was a hero of mine.”
Richard Sherman was lucky enough to be close to Bryant.
“He was a friend of mine. He was a mentor. He meant a lot to this world, and he made a positive impact. There’s nothing I can really say to quantify his impact on myself and on others,” Sherman said to USA Today. “I’m gonna go out there and try to play some dominating ball just like he wanted. The ‘Mamba Mentality’ still lives on.”
Super Bowl Sunday will mark exactly one week since Bryant’s passing. In the world of sports, every athlete is connected to one another. They understand the hard work that it takes, and respect the toll it takes on your mind and body, no matter the sport.
Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality,” his dedication to his craft and his fearless competitiveness can be adopted by all athletes and applied to all sports. I’m excited to see who will ball out like Kobe this upcoming Sunday.