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The meaning of Kobe Bryant's 'Mamba Mentality' one year after his death

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant with his daughter, Gianna. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

One year ago, the world stopped. Not just the sports world, but fans around the globe would feel the heartbreak of a legend lost too soon.

Kobe Bean Bryant died in a horrific helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Jan. 26, 2020.

It was a moment in time that shattered the world. An icon gone too soon.

I remember vividly where I was when the news broke out. I was working for a production company who hosts the Pro Bowl. At the time, we were in Orlando, Fla., two minutes from leading the color guard out to take stage for the Star Spangled Banner.

We were uncertain at the time if players knew about the tragedy before lining up to take the field. Hats off to the president of our company who knew we had to pay respect to the Mamba at some point in the game. Changing plans on a moment's notice during an event is no cake walk.

We switched up game breaks and added a moment of silence. Everybody worked together to make sure we honored the legend. You could feel the stadium rock with sadness and disbelief. Hair stood on the back of my neck as the stadium erupted with fans chanting "Ko-be." You could feel his spirit among the crowd.

As one year passes, it still feels like it was just yesterday.

I had the amazing opportunity to interview Bryant in March 2019 after the release of his book series: Wizenard. When preparing for the interview, I was blown away by the endless accolades of Bryant's life in basketball. To name a few: five-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, NBA MVP, 18-time All-Star and Oscar Award winner for Best Animated Short Film for "Dear Basketball."

What I was most fascinated to learn about what Bryant's creative side. Asked what stood out most about his list of accomplishments in his life, he picked a non-basketball moment of creating content.

“I think what we’re doing right now because it’s been unexpected,” Bryant said. “You know? Like when you grow up and dream about playing the game, you kind of have your mindset on what life should be and then you live that and then all of the sudden life throws you a curve ball. In this case, it’s the creative arts and so what we’re doing right now is the most fulfilling, I think.”

Kobe made you feel as though you were just two people catching up. Those tend to be my favorite interviews. Where each side feels comfortable and the interview feels like a casual conversation. His "Mamba Mentality" gave others the hope and drive to believing they could be anything they wanted to with hard work and perseverance.

“'Mamba mentality' is all about focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most," Bryant said in an interview with Amazon Book Review in 2018. “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. 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 was a driving force to inspire athletes and those particularly within women's basketball.

On the day of the tragedy, Bryant along with the those on board, were en route to a youth basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and a training facility called Mamba Academy, now the Sports Academy. It was the first weekend of 2020 games in the inaugural Mamba Cup tournament.

Following his 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant began coaching Gianna's middle school basketball team. But his dedication to girls and women's basketball didn't stop there. He was known to be an outspoken supporter of the WNBA and voiced his support for its athletes. Days prior to his passing, in an interview with CNN, Kobe told reporters he could see women playing in the same league as men.

"There's a lot of players with a lot of skill that could do it," he told CNN. "Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne. There's a lot of great players out there, so they could certainly keep up with them."

Nevada women's basketball guard LaPraisjah Johnson reflected on how much Bryant meant to the women's basketball community.

“Kobe’s impact on women’s basketball was more than the orange bouncy ball or him being Kobe Bryant at a women’s basketball game," Johnson said. "It was his desire for the game. His 'Mamba Mentality.' His respect for the game never meant gender. It was, 'What more can I learn?' Having a daughter that wanted to play helped with that so much more because he had to learn the game differently. So his impact on women’s basketball was that no league was better than the other. The mentality that, 'Every day I am going to become a better me than I was yesterday' holds so much value.”

Bryant's death lead to memorials and tributes across the globe for a man who loved so dearly. His impact was immense and will carry on for generations to come.

#MambaOut #MambaMentality

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