By Albert Hewitt, KNWD Sports Director
Kobe Bean Bryant was drafted into the NBA in 1996. Ironically, this is the same year that I was born.
Growing up Kobe was more than just a basketball player to me. The game is of course how he began to creep into the hearts of fans all over the world, but for me it was his mentality that stood out.
Kobe Bryant referred to his way of thinking, and his work ethic, as the “Mamba Mentality.”
The Mamba Mentality has been adapted by millions of people around the world.
I am one of those people.
When I watched Kobe Bryant in action growing up I would always think to myself, “Can anyone stop this man?” The dedication that he played with made him very hard to stop. He persevered through injuries, and criticism, while maintaining his life as a father.
I once watched an interview where Kobe said, “I work hard perfecting my craft every day, but I work even harder when I get home.” He was referring to working just as hard as a father, as he did as an athlete. This is just the type of person Kobe was. Everything came second to his family.
As I’ve been reflecting the life of Kobe Bryant over the past few days there is only one thing I wish I could tell him. That would be a simple “Thank you.”
I never got the chance to meet Kobe Bryant, but the Mamba Mentality got me through many trying times thus far in life.
For example, in 2019 I tore my Achilles tendon. This was a very tough experience for me. In the beginning of my recovery process, it seemed as if my injury would get the best of me. This is when my “Mamba Mentality” kicked in.
Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon at the end of the 2012-13 NBA season. He was injured on a play where he was fouled, but somehow still managed to sink his free throws and walk himself off of the court.
This was an example of how he overcame everything the game threw him. I always admired Kobe for this very moment simply because of the strength he showed on this day. Although it was late in his career, he didn’t let this injury mark the end. He worked hard, and eventually returned to the sport that he loved the most.
Knowing that Kobe overcame this injury gave me the motivation that I needed to do the same.
There are millions of people around the world that Kobe Bryant inspired to adapt this mentality, because of it his legacy will never die.
Everyone can have their own Lakers’ stories. Stories about why they love the Lakers, why they hate the team. They may tell stories about why certain Lakers players were the best to play the game. Aside from all of this, here is my story.
Growing up, I hated the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mark Cuban instilled this hate in me. Cuban once said, “Personally, I just hope they suck forever.” That’s just one of the many quotes directed towards the 16x NBA Champions.
I’m a die-hard Dallas Mavericks fan or an ‘MFFL.’ (Mavs Fan For Life.) I am willing to sacrifice myself for Dirk Nowitzki. Any time the Lakers came to the American Airlines Center, it was Kobe versus Dirk.
I would often wish that Dirk would highlight his career by passing Kobe and others on the NBA’s All-Time Scoring Leaders list. However, I knew that would never happen. There was just one reason and I knew it.
Kobe was Kobe.
Even using the words in a past tense hurts. It hurts as a member of a generation of basketball fans that looked up to Kobe. It hurts as a fan of the game. It hurts as a sports fan. Most of all, it hurts as a human.
When TMZ broke the news that Kobe had passed, I did quick and intense research. I couldn’t find anything but the original article so, naturally, I wrote it off. When I logged back on to Facebook, I was devastated.
I remember Kobe as a legend of the game. There was never any doubt that he was unique. Kobe’s jumper, his fade away, his footwork, they all made for a special player. A no-doubt Hall-of-Famer and a legend of the game.
Most of all, I remember Kobe for simply being a lover. A lover of the game, a lover of his daughters, a lover of his wife and a lover of Los Angeles.
There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This is an important healing process that most humans endure in response to losing a loved one or someone of great importance to us.
I was on the phone with three of my older brothers when I saw the article from TMZ detailing the death of the NBA legend Kobe Bryant. We were in the middle of a discussion about the sudden relevance of the Pro Bowl when I interrupted them to read the story out loud. The immediate consensus was that the story was fake. TMZ is known for hoaxes, right? So, we just believed that he was still here, because some people just aren’t supposed to die. We reached the first stage of grief within a matter of minutes, because we were all in denial.
I opened Twitter to see if there was any news about the article, but it was silent. It was another regular Sunday for twitter. The world was calm and quiet then I refreshed my timeline, and the world was broken. More and more news media outlets were posting updates about the fatal helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and Rick Fox? No Rick Fox was not on board, but all of Kobe’s daughters were? No, that’s not true either. The slew of false information sent the world into the second stage of grief, anger.
Until more accurate updates on the crash were posted, fans began to try and make sense of the situation. We had to figure out how the man who instilled the fierce mamba mentality in all of us just passed. Did our real life representation of a superhero really just pass away? The man whose name is called every time we throw a paper ball into a basket. It’s not possible. He was too young, too good, too legendary to really be gone. What if everyone was wrong, what if it was a different helicopter, or what if it’s just a bad prank. With this clouded view of reality, we began the third stage of grief, bargaining.
But then, it all became very real. TMZ reported that Kobe Bryant’s 13 year old daughter, Gianna Bryant, was on board and was also killed in the crash. This is the news that sent the entire world into the fourth stage of grief, depression. We were remembering Kobe Bryant as great player, teammate and role model, but when we learned of GiGi’s passing we also remembered him as a great father.
The last stage of grief is acceptance, but the thing about grief is that the cycle can repeat at any point. It has been six days since we learned of the passing of Kobe and GiGi Bryant, and I still have not accepted their deaths and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the legendary Black Mamba will forever live in our hearts.