Kobe Bryant: His Mamba Mentality meant much more than his NBA career

Kobe Bryant killed Helicopter crash Gianna Gigi Bryant

Kobe Bryant. Gone too soon.

Kobe Bryant’s death hurt.

Yesterday was heavy. Just burdened with sorrow and grief. Sleep was far and few between. I found myself completely heartbroken for a man that I only met a couple of times. If Kobe Bryan’s death hurt me this much, I can’t imagine what each family is going through.

To the Bryant, Altobelli, Mauser, Chester and Zobayan families, we are all so sorry for your loss. Our prayers are with you in this horrible time.

Why did Kobe’s death hit so hard?

Is the loss of Kobe Bryant limited to basketball fans? Of course not! Yes, Kobe had the rings, the MVPs and all of the highlights. Watching him play on the court was something else. But, his legend surpasses his five rings and 81-point game.

His impact on the game of basketball, a city, and the world is now just being fully realized. It’s not the dunks, and-ones or championships that I remember most. Because I gained more from his interviews and wisdom in his later years than I did from watching him play. Kobe’s game was brilliant, but his mentality was everything.

It’s that Mamba Mentality

A phrase synonymous with Kobe, meaning unwavering commitment and dedication. Attacking your goals with relentless passion, the Mamba Mentality was beyond what most of us believe capable. He took what Michael Jordan did and took it to the next level. Showing us what greatness is on the court is one thing. However, Kobe Bryant taught us how to achieve it. In his Oscar-winning, animated short “Dear Basketball”, we learned that his mentality was fueled by love.

Although some criticized Kobe Bryant for his attitude towards teammates and their effort, hindsight shows us that was love. Tough love, yes. But love nonetheless. Kobe wanted everyone to dedicate themselves to the game like he did. Because he loved basketball with everything that he was. He left everything on the court, regardless of practice or game. And he couldn’t imagine that anyone else didn’t have that love.

But he also loved his teammates, his friends, his rivals. Living by example, Kobe showed players how to do it. Through his mentality, they learned to continue to strive, push, learn, grow and struggle to greatness. He pushed good players to be great and great players to be legends.

He did everything to the best of his ability. We know this because the stats, the accolades and the accomplishments show that. Kobe put himself in the discussion as the best basketball player of all time. Ultimately, his basketball life impacted the world. He was the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

Yet somehow, he will be remembered for so much more. His life as a father and husband defined his life more than 20 years in the NBA.

Kobe Bryant the father and husband

Like in basketball, Kobe Bryant led by example as a father. His love and tenderness warmed out heart. We all saw it with the way he acted with his family. He completely dedicated himself to them. The wisdom he imparted to us fathers was well beyond his years.

Recall that we were ready for Kobe Bryant the basketball player to show up as the father. We were ready for toughness, grit, and pain. Expecting him to be hard, demanding, and grinding on his kids, he surprised us. Instead, he encouraged curiosity and tried to pique his child’s interests. Again, just like in basketball, he went further than being great because he helped us be great. Kobe modeled hard work, dedication and an ever-growing understanding of children’s needs.

The Black Mamba was fierce, deadly, but also loving

During his legendary career, we only knew Kobe Bryant as the Black Mamba. Deadly. Fierce. He could break opponents’ wills at any moment and strike with venom. Every player feared the Mamba.

But, underneath the deadliest snake in the world’s skin was a giant heart of gold. Hidden beyond the leathery exterior, we know his heart and soul were filled with love and compassion.

Kobe Bryant’s massive impact on my life

There have been three athletes in my lifetime that impacted my life in major ways:

  • Michael Jordan,
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Steph Curry

However, none was biggest than Kobe Bean Bryant. 

MJ made me love basketball and believe I could fly and do superhuman things. Steph Curry helped me articulate my redefinition of manhood and how much character and personal boundaries impact success.

But Kobe, he made me change my allegiance. I grew up a Michael Jordan and Bulls fan. It was MJ all the way. No Lakers, all Bulls. Then, the team broke up and my basketball heart was broken. Later, in college, I watched the episode of Beyond the Glory about Kobe Bryant. Instantly, I related to his story and his life. Both Kobe and the Lakers stole my heart. And it hasn’t wavered since. I even wrote an open letter to Kobe when he retired. 

https://unafraidshow.com/open-letter-to-kobe-bean-bryant/

My only regrets in life are when I didn’t live with the Mamba Mentality.

  • Giving everything you have until the task is done
  • Extreme dedication to the things you say, you love and want the most
  • Enjoying the hard and arduous process of building greatness
  • All the while, striving to be cultured, educated, and thoughtful about things outside your love to learn new ways to love your love

It’s hard. That level of dedication and love is unreal. And only a few have it within them to outwork everyone, every day. But now, with Kobe’s example before us, we can strive for that Mamba Mentality. Let’s get to work. 

The greatest gifts I can give my kids are:

  • Love of God
  • Love and Dedication to them
  • My example as a husband/father
  • The Mamba Mentality.

He left us abruptly but left us with so much. I’ll miss you and your teachings, Kobe Bean Bryant.

Farewell to Kobe Bryant – The Black Mamba

Kobe Bryant Black Mamba

On Saturday night, NBA fans were abuzz that LeBron James was only 18 points away from eclipsing Kobe Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It was truly poetic that James, now a Los Angeles Laker would surpass one of the all-time greatest Lakers, Kobe Bryant, in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia.  King James and the Black Mamba gave basketball fans a piece of NBA history to be remembered for years to come. In a post-game interview, James gave accounts of his interactions with Bryant over the years and what it meant to him to beat his record.  

Never could anyone have imagined that the very next day Kobe Bryant would no longer be with us.  Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others tragically perished when his private helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California on Sunday. News of this accident hit hard sending shock waves that vibrated world-wide. His death hit particularly hard as I am like many an avid basketball fan who grew up watching and playing basketball during Bryant’s ascension into NBA greatness. 

I am just old enough to remember Michael Jordan hitting “the shot” in game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals and his subsequent retirement. Even though Jordan was no longer playing, everyone, including myself, still wanted to “be like Mike”. I watched Kobe Bryant’s attempt to fill the void that Jordan left as he became the personification of what it meant to “be like Mike.” Bryant demonstrated extreme excellence on the court and showed us the way through his “Mamba Mentality”. With five NBA Championships, Kobe Bryant got pretty-close to “being like Mike.”

In his quest for greatness, he became Kobe Bryant – the Black Mamba and an inspiration to us all. Bryant showed us how to be relentless in our pursuits and defined the meaning of perseverance and hard work. He showed us how to be comfortable walking away from doing what you love when he scored 60 points in his last game. Soon after, he showed us not to be afraid to strive for excellence in other arenas when he made history as the first African American to win the Oscar for best animated short for “Dear Basketball”. 

Bryant proved that the Mamba Mentality was applicable in all facets of life and that he was so much more than an athlete.  He was a living legend and an inspiration. It is for these reasons that his death has had a profound effect on so many people, including those like myself who never had an opportunity to meet him. 

As the news of his untimely death spread many of Bryant’s former teammates, former competitors, friends, and mentees began sharing stories of the NBA legend. Allen Iverson shared a story about Bryant during their first year in the league. Iverson stated that he was in L.A. for the first time and Bryant invited him to dinner. Bryant asked Iverson what was he doing after dinner and Iverson replied going to the club while Bryant said he was going to the gym.  There Bryant was already showing glimpses of the Mamba Mentality. 

After, reading Iverson’s statement I began thinking about one of the most exciting NBA Finals of my lifetime, the 2001 NBA Finals. In that series, the Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers. I saw one of my hometown heroes, Allen Iverson, go against one of the best duos in all of sports -Shaq and Kobe. Similarly, Michael Jordan issued a statement stating that Bryant was like a little brother to him. After reading Jordan’s statement, I thought of the last matchup between Bryant and Jordan where Bryant dropped 55 points on Jordan who was then with Washington Wizards.

On Monday, LeBron James issued a heartfelt statement regarding Kobe Bryant’s passing. He stated that he had spoken to Bryant early Sunday morning before leaving Philadelphia. He also vowed to put the Laker’s legacy on his back. Upon reading James’ statement, I thought of the iconic photo of King James and the Black Mamba in Bryant’s final All-Star Game. They were both doing what they love – playing basketball.

In the midst of all these memories, I realized how lucky this generation of basketball fans have been to be able to witness and recall the greatness of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. These men are NBA legends and are all the GOAT in their own right. 

In Bryant’s second act off the court, he was on a quest to be a great storyteller. Bryant founded a multimedia production company, Granite Studio. The company was to focus on creating content marrying sports with the themes of fantasy and storytelling. Bryant was building Granite Studios from the ground up starting with books. Bryant was certainly on his way to great success in the arena as well.  Although Bryant’s second career was tragically cut short, he gave us perhaps his most profound story and lesson on Sunday. That is that the next second of life is not promised and the importance of showing your love and appreciation for your loved ones every day.

Let’s Face The Facts: NBA Superstars Are Underpaid

NBA Superstars Underpaid with the salary cap

Though the above is a live look of the New Orleans Pelicans ticket staffers learning their team won the 2019 NBA Draft lottery and right to draft Zion Williamson, it’s safe to say the Brooklyn Nets sales team experienced this same joy at the start of NBA Free Agency. The signing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signifies a coming of age story for the Nets and the end of an era for their crosstown rival. Once heralded as the “Mecca” of basketball, the aura that surrounded Madison Square Garden is gone. New York Knicks’ owner James Dolan was reportedly hesitant to sign Kevin Durant to a maximum deal. But if your team’s president has to release a statement responding to angry fans, that’s clearly not the correct business decision.

NBA Star Market Value

NBA Superstars Drive Revenue

People pay to see stars, and teams know it. Immediately after signing the two-all stars, an all-out race for Nets season tickets ensued. Currently, the cheapest ticket available is $4,000 a seat, which is quite an expense for a team that won a total of 48 games prior to the 2018-2019 NBA Season.

NBA stars do more than put fans in the seats; they serve as an economic catalyst for all other aspects of their team’s city. When Lebron James announced his “Decision” in 2010, not only did he take his talents to South Beach, but also $48 million in annual revenue. When James re-signed with Cleveland in 2014, Professor Leroy Brooks estimated his return added nearly $500 million to the local economy. The Cavaliers suffered another negative swing when Lebron moved west to the Los Angeles Lakers.

NBA teams lack profitability and marketability without a star player. Fans routinely discuss how players aren’t worth a certain contract. When Kobe Bryant became the league’s highest-paid player in 2014, he did so to show players should not feel forced to take less than their worth and stated:

“Athletes are the ones that are in the public eye the most. And so their salaries are constantly talked about, so it’s very easy to look at the athlete and say, ‘You should be doing more and you should be taking less,’ when the reality is that your market value is so much higher than what people understand.

” ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you still should be taking less to win. Why do we have to do that? Because the owners locked us out and imposed a hard cap where we ‘have to’ take less in order for them to generate more revenue. Right? But meanwhile, they go and sign a TV deal that’s a billion dollars up from the last one, but that doesn’t get talked about. Nobody complains about that.”

Credit: CBS Sports

Maximum Value Under The NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement

Credit: Larry Coon / CBA FAQ

Maximum salaries are the product of the 1998-1999 NBA lockout initiated by owners who feared player salaries were getting out of control. After the Minnesota Timberwolves gave 21-year old Kevin Garnett an extension worth six years, $126 million, billionaire owners decided they couldn’t “have the inmates running the prison.”

Now, maximum salaries are dependent on the player’s years of services. In a truly open market, superstar players such as Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Stephy Curry, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis would be worth at least $75 Million. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, and Nikola Jokic would easily pull in contracts worth $50 million to $60 million per year. Hell, Zion Williamson is on the verge of signing a $100 million shoe deal; it makes no sense that his perceived NBA value is $45 million over four years.

Despite the league’s continued growth, it’s unlikely that the cap will rise to a level that will allow players to receive their true worth. While it may be hard to quantify the value a superstar brings, one method would be to allow teams the ability to sign a player outside of cap space. Instead of retiring jerseys, if owners truly want to show their appreciation, this is the route they should take. Then, the future Lebrons, Durants, and Antetokounmpos would be able to live in the world Kobe hoped to create for his fellow stars.

Follow Alan Wilmot on Twitter and Instagram @alanwilmotlaw

Why Do Fans Wait Until Great Athletes Retire to Openly Appreciate Their Greatness?

great athletes kobe lebron brady not appreciated

Avid football fans tuned in to watch the NFL’s most exciting event, Super Bowl LIII. The New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in a “defensive showdown”. It was the Patriots third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. It was also the franchises ninth Super Bowl appearance with head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady at the helm. Given that Brady was successful in his ninth Super Bowl appearance, the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) debate has been embedded in almost every conversation. The ultimate question is – does this Super Bowl win solidify Tom Brady’s position as the GOAT?

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While the GOAT debate can be fun, it can also be pretty contentious. The contentious nature of the debate can deflect from the true greatness that sports fans are witnessing at the moment. The debate can cause sports fans to completely miss what it is happening because fans are focused on finding flaws in great players’ performances to justify who they think should be regarded as the GOAT. Accordingly, fans have a tendency to snub athletes during their careers who are later regarded as greats. Why do sports fans wait until the end of an athlete’s career to show their true appreciation?

The Black Mamba – An NBA Legend

One of the best examples of fans failing to show true appreciation until the athlete retires can be seen in former Los Angeles Laker, Kobe Bryant. Bryant is without question one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Bryant’s greatness cannot be disputed. After all, he scored 81 points in one game in his prime. Bryant then showed everyone how to retire when he scored 60 points in his final game. However, Bryant did not receive all of his deserved accolades until he retired. For years Kobe Bryant was one of the most hated athletes in sports. People thought he was arrogant, not a team player, and completely self-interested.

However, when he announced his retirement those sentiments changed. Instead, people said he was confident, made his teammates better, and led his teammates to several victories and NBA Championships. Everyone was ready to embrace the “Mamba Mentality.” Why did fans wait until Bryant’s retirement to show true appreciation for his performance in the NBA?

Maybe it is the old adage of not truly being able to appreciate something until it is gone. Once an athlete retires, fans are left wishing they could re-live the athlete’s greatest moments. The failure to truly appreciate Bryant while he was playing robbed the sports world of the opportunity to truly bask in his greatness. It seems that the sports world may be on the same track in regards to LeBron James and Tom Brady.

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Fans are Failing to Acknowledge LeBron James’ and Tom Brady’s Greatness While They are Playing

LeBron James is undisputedly one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. However, when he is talked about that fact seems to get lost. Fans often focus on the fact that he is 3-9 in the NBA Finals. However, when he retires the story will likely be re-framed to reflect the fact that James appeared in 8 consecutive NBA finals. Most recently, everyone talks of the fact that the Cavaliers were swept in the 2018 NBA Finals. Again when James retires the story will most likely reflect the fact that James took what was probably the most unlikely team ever to the NBA Finals.

Similarly, Tom Brady is and has been one of the most hated players in the NFL. Tom Brady’s ability to get his team to multiple playoffs, AFC Championships, and Super Bowls is truly remarkable. However, some sports critics find ways to poke holes in his performances. To be fair, in light of Spygate and Deflategate some of his criticism is earned. Critics use those instances to take away from his greatness. In spite of how some sports fans feel about those controversies, Brady’s innate ability to constantly have his team in a position to advance to the Super Bowl is nothing short of amazing. When Brady retires the talk will not be of Spygate and Deflategate, it will be about how Brady managed to advance to 9 Super Bowls.

If Fans Are Not Careful Other Great Moments are Going to Pass Them By

Sports fans should learn to appreciate James, Brady, and other greats while they are still playing. Fans should learn to stop looking at every player’s performance for what it is not and start to appreciate it for it is. In most cases, the players are doing something that has not been before and will probably never be done again. Just simply witnessing the longevity of James’ and Brady’s careers is remarkable.

The fact that James and Brady have been able to stay at the top of their games this late in their careers is remarkable as well. Their greatness should be admired now, not after they retire. If fans do not learn to stop being so critical, other great moments are going to pass them by. If fans are not careful, they will be left to wish they could re-live James’ and Brady’s and other players’ greatest moments.

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