By Michael Romanelli
Before and since his retirement in 2016, Kobe Bryant and his Mamba Mentality has been inspiring athletes around the world. Kobe defines the Mamba Mentality as “a constant quest to find answers. It’s that infinite curiosity to want to be better, to figure things out. Mamba Mentality is you’re going, you’re competing, you’re not worried about the end result. You’re not worried about what people may say. You’re not worried about disappointing others. You’re not worried about any of that, you’re just focused on being in the moment. Thats what Mamba Mentality truly is.” In today’s NBA, young stars like Devin Booker, Kyrie Irving, and Jayson Tatum carry on The Mamba Mentality.
Like almost anyone else who grew up playing basketball in the 2000s, Kyrie Irving was inspired by Kobe Bryant’s explosive scoring ability, and relentless determination to win. In 2012, Kyrie and Kobe were on Team USA and their friendship began when Kyrie challenged Kobe to a game of 1 on 1 at camp. They didn’t play that day, but Kyrie got his wish when he called an isolation play against Kobe the Cavs met the Lakers the next season. Kyrie performed a series of moves that would have worked against most defenders, but Kobe wasn’t fooled, and blocked the shot. Since then, Irving has sought advice from Kobe about his knee injuries, how to develop The Mamba Mentality and much more. Kobe even received a FaceTime call from Kyrie moments after winning the NBA Championship in 2016.
This past summer, Kobe had worked out with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum. On ESPN, Tatum said “Kobe Bryant was the reason I started playing basketball, always was and will be my favorite player of all time……He had an incredible work ethic, incredible drive, just the killer mentality that he had.” Prior to the workout, Jayson Tatum was also the subject of an episode of “Detail”, a series in which Kobe Bryant analyzes film of current NBA players.
Jayson Tatum is not the only young star that got to get in the gym with Kobe. This summer, Bucks franchise player Giannis Antetokounmpo also worked out with the Mamba, and even showed up three hours early. While talking to media, Giannis said “I just wanted to show him that I am not here to mess around…..I think he understands that. And that’s why we both took that practice really, really serious.” So far this season, Milwaukee is 8-1 and The Greek Freak is making his early case for MVP.
Despite there being no public knowledge of a workout between Kobe Bryant and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, one can’t help but to make comparisons between the two. At only the age of 20, Booker scored 70 points against the Boston Celtics. By doing so, he joins Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor, and David Robinson as the only players to score 70 or more points in a single NBA game. Booker was also one of few rookies to share the court with Kobe. As well as having a killer scoring mentality, Booker feels the same way about winning. After Phoenix missed the playoffs last season, he stated “I’m done with not making the playoffs, I’m serious. This is probably my last year ever not making the playoffs. If that’s putting pressure on myself, I’m going to take this summer and work that hard so that it doesn’t happen again.” Since entering the NBA, Devin has developed into a player that seems capable of leading the Suns for years to come.
Like any All-Time Great, Kobe has influenced the game for the next generation, and by being a mentor for the superstars of tomorrow, he will pass on The Mamba Mentality for generations to come. To learn more about Kobe Bryant and his approach to the game, look no further than Bryant’s new book, “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” written by Kobe, featuring an Introduction by Phil Jackson, and a Forward Pau Gasol, and photographs by our very own Andrew Bernstein.