Honoring the Mamba Mentality

Gray Hughes

To me, there are only a few people in this world who exude excellence.

Kobe Bryant was one of them.

Everything Kobe did was excellent, but, to me, one of the things that stood out the most about Kobe is that he expected that same excellence out of everyone around him.

To those of you who might not be National Basketball Association (NBA) fans, that excellence — along with his drive, his focus, his intensity — is called the Mamba Mentality.

To me, nothing says excellence like the Mamba Mentality. That’s, perhaps, one of the biggest reasons why his death hit me so hard. This isn’t an original idea, and I can’t remember where I saw or heard this so I can’t credit the person who said this, but perhaps one of the biggest reasons why Kobe’s death hit people — including myself — so hard is because — in his world — he controlled everything around him, and his death was so random. This is 100 percent correct.

But there’s another reason why his death hit me so hard.

When his helicopter crashed, he was on the way to his daughter’s, Gianna, game. With his daughter. With another child, Alyssa Altobelli. With families. Kobe was mentoring his daughter and her teammates and instilling in them the Mamba Mentality and crafting a new generation of basketball players ready to take over the game one day.

I’m not a father, and I don’t plan on becoming a father for a very, very long time, but that part hit me hard.

The loss of life is something I have always struggled with, but the loss of children has always hit me the hardest. Children are precious and our largest commodity. They are our future and need to be protected.

But it’s hard to live in a world knowing that — no matter what — children can’t be protected from the cruel world around them.

There’s no denying the story of Kobe is not the cleanest. You can’t tell his story without discussing what happened in Colorado in 2003. Kobe, too, was icy and, when he was still playing, he had a reputation of being a bit of a jerk, to put it lightly.

But in retirement, Kobe stepped into a new role in life: father, husband, friend. I was listening to ESPN Radio, and once again I can’t remember who said this so I can’t properly credit them, but that person said the Mamba Mentality shouldn’t just be on the basketball court. Kobe’s pursuit of excellence should be applied to everything, but especially family life. In retirement, that’s what Kobe was doing. He was using the Mamba Mentality to make himself a better father, husband and friend.

The fact that he was on his way to coach his daughter and her team (something I dream of doing one day) when he — and the others — died hit me hard.

The new, retirement Kobe is the Kobe I want to remember. Yes, what he did on the court was truly great. Like I said before, greatness and Kobe go hand-in-hand. But what he was doing, mentoring the next generation, is truly how he should be remembered.

He gave Gianna a love for the game. She had dreams of going to University of Connecticut to play for its dominant basketball team when it came time for her to go to college.

I think the loss of Gianna and Alyssa hit me the hardest.

They were on their way to play a game that they loved together. Doing things kids should be doing. They had promising futures. They could have very well been the next stars in the Women’s National Basketball Association. They could have gone on to be stars in politics, in medicine, in philanthropic endeavors. Had they used Kobe’s Mamba Mentality, there’s no knowing what they could have accomplished.

So, to honor Gianna’s and Alyssa’s life beyond Kobe’s life, apply the Mamba Mentality to everything you do. Take Blake Gardner’s advice in his columns and make your day your masterpiece. Be excellent in everything you do, and expect greatness out of those around you. But, most importantly, help those around you achieve greatness.

User login