Kobe Bean Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Named after a city in Japan, Bryant is the son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant.
In 1984, after ending his NBA career, the elder Bryant took the family to Italy, where he played in the Italian League. Growing up in Italy, Bryant was an avid player of both basketball and soccer. When the family returned to Philadelphia in 1991, Bryant joined the Lower Merion High School basketball team, leading it to the state championships four years in a row. Though he boasted good grades and high SAT scores, Bryant decided to go straight to the NBA from high school at the young age of 17. He started playing with the Los Angeles Lakers, his home for the next 20 years in 1996.
In his second season with the Lakers, Bryant was voted a starter for the 1998 All-Star Game, becoming the youngest All-Star in NBA history at 19. The shooting guard then teamed up with superstar center Shaquille O Neal to win three consecutive NBA championships. Although the Lakers struggled after O’Neal left in 2004, Bryant performed brilliantly. He scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006, the second-highest single-game mark in NBA history, and led the league in scoring that year and the next.In 2008, Bryant was named Most Valuable Player and carried his team to the NBA Finals. In the 2009 NBA Finals, the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic to win the championship. The following year, the Lakers won their second straight title by defeating the Celtics.
His hyper competitive nature led to occasional public disagreements with coaches and other players over the years, but his commitment to winning was never questioned.
In 2016, after various injuries had taken their toll on the longtime superstar, he announced his retirement from the game. Even his last game proved to have one more highlight for him, scoring 60 points in his final game while leading the last-place Lakers to a surprising win over the Utah Jazz.
On the court, he will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game, winning five championships, two NBA Finals MVPs and two Olympic gold medals, while finishing fourth in career scoring. He was surpassed by the current Lakers captain and his good friend, LeBron James last week.
Off the court Bryant was many things: An intellectual who switched effortlessly between Italian, Spanish and English; a doting father to four daughters, a budding media mogul who won an Oscar, a fervent soccer fan of Barcelona and AC Milan, a champion of women’s sports, and an inspiration to younger players for his winning attitude that he labeled “Mamba Mentality.”
Inspired by the code name for a deadly assassin in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 movie “Kill Bill,” Bryant adopted the nickname “Mamba Mentality” to separate his life on and off the court. In an interview with the New Yorker, Bryant said of the animal that inspired the name, “When I step on that court, I become that. I am that killer snake. I’m stone cold, man.”
For Bryant, Mamba Mentality was about more than just basketball. “Mamba Mentality is all about focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most,” he told Amazon Book Review. “It’s the ultimate mantra for the competitive spirit. It started just as a hashtag that came to me one day, and it’s grown into something athletes and even non-athletes embrace as a mindset.” “Hard work outweighs talent, every time,” he continued. “Mamba Mentality is about 4 a.m. workouts, doing more than the next guy and then trusting in the work you’ve put in when it’s time to perform. Without studying, preparation and practice, you’re leaving the outcome to fate. I don’t do fate.”
The Mamba Mentality movement inspired more than just pro athletes. Fans everywhere use the phrase as motivation to keep going, to keep pushing, and to keep fighting.
The world woke up on 26th January, 2020 to the horrific news that 41 year old Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash with his 13 year old daughter Gianna Bryant. Kobe and his daughter were on their way to Mamba Academy, a women’s basketball school he had founded and his daughter was a player in. Gigi Bryant had decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and was an amateaur basketball player herself.
The city of Los Angeles and millions of fans around the world have lost their hero. There has been an outpouring of support from those in and out of the basketball world including Barack Obama, Rafael Nadal, Michael Jordan and Lebron James, just proving that Kobe’s legacy and the Mamba Mentality is here to stay.