Sunday afternoon was a devastating day for sports fans everywhere.
More importantly, nine families were forever damaged.
On what seemed to be a normal Sunday afternoon here on the east coast, word quickly spread of a hillside helicopter crash. The helicopter burst into flames, taking the lives of all nine people on board — two of which were 41-year-old Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Whether they had a personal connection to the “Black Mamba,” idolized him as a child or were just casual fans, millions across the globe stopped and mourned the loss of an icon. People gathered outside the Staples Center, Kobe’s homecourt for his entire 20-year career, with tears in their eyes and flowers in their arms. Expressions of pure shock and profound sadness inscribed across each face.
How could one man, one person, have such a global impact?
Sure, everyone knows the stats: Five NBA titles, twice a Finals MVP, one league MVP, 18-time All-Star, countless appearances on All-NBA teams. He was one of the greatest pure scorers basketball has ever seen, ranking third on the all-time scoring list before LeBron James passed him not even 24 hours before his death. His 81-point game against the Raptors is the second-most points ever scored in an NBA game.
Kobe describing #MambaMentality: “To be on a constant quest to try to be the best version of yourself. That’s what the mentality is. It’s not a finite thing. It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday and better tomorrow than you were the day before.”
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 27, 2020
But Kobe was so much more than his Hall-of-Fame numbers. He was a way of life.
His famous “Mamba Mentality,” a relentless work ethic, will be his lasting mark on the world. He knew how to push himself, no matter what he was doing, to be the absolute best that he could be.
He spent countless hours in the gym, perfecting his game to the point where we recognized him as Basketball Royalty. He spent hours upon hours away from the court trying to be the best father he could be.
Mamba Mentality goes beyond basketball. It’s applicable to everyone. You want to be the best engineer? Well, put in the work. You want to be the best journalist? Put in the work. You want to be the best parent or spouse or co-worker you can be?
Put in the work.
When asked about how he defined the Mamba Mentality, Kobe said this: “To be on a constant quest to try to be the best version of yourself. That’s what the mentality is. It’s not a finite thing. It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday and better tomorrow than you were the day before.”
It was a never-ending cycle.
ESPN basketball analyst and former NBA player Jay Williams shared a story about one time when he was getting ready to face the Lakers.
Ahead of a 7 p.m. tip-off, Williams decided to get to Staples Center at 3 p.m. to put in some extra work. When he got there, Kobe was already working out and in a full sweat. Williams went through his workout and after about an hour or so, called it quits.
Mamba spent another 25 minutes on the floor before he hit the showers. He scored 40 points that night.
Williams asked after the game why Kobe stayed out there so long.
“Because I saw you walk in.”
The relentless effort to pursue greatness will be Kobe’s everlasting impact on the world. Sure, he was one of the most decorated athletes to walk the earth, but that can’t be passed on.
The Mamba Mentality has been adopted by hundreds and thousands of athletes, and others, around the world. His daughter Gigi was known as “Mambacita” because she was so much like her father. She put in the work to be one of the best young basketball players in the country, pursuing her dream of one day becoming a Husky. Though the dream was taken away far too quickly, the mentality remains.
So, if you made it this far, I implore you to embrace the mentality of the Mamba. No matter who you are, where you’re from or what you do, strive to be better. Work every day to be the best you can be. Wake up early. Go to bed late. Do what it takes to achieve greatness.
That’s how the Mamba lived.
Kobe and Gigi may be gone, but their legacy can live on in all of us.
Thumbnail photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP