Celebrating Greatness by Achieving Greatness
On August 23rd, Kobe Bryant would’ve celebrated his 42nd birthday. However, along with his daughter Gianna and seven other players and parents from their basketball team, he passed away in January following a helicopter crash. The city of Los Angeles mourned these losses heavily. The WORLD was reminded of and mourned the loss of arguably the greatest competitor of this generation. Murals were painted, songs were written, jerseys were worn, and tears were shed. Mine included. But for me, this led to a time of research and reflection on the man Kobe Bryant was, and what made him the all time great that he was. Many athletes, many people in general, have studied the principles of his Mamba Mentality. Thankfully, after stepping away from the court, he wrote a book detailing these principles, giving us a study guide on how he played the game. In celebration of him, I’ve decided to list a few of these principles and discuss the ways to incorporate them into your life.
Trust the Process
Sustained success of any form, in any walk of life, is the result of playing the long game. Some industries are partial to one hit wonders or quick flashes in the pan, but they tend to burn out as quickly and easily as they arrive. But those who “trust the Process” (A mantra of Kobe’s hometown Philadelphia 76ers) realize that years, if not decades, of work must be done to become the best version of yourself possible. Kobe mentions beginning a weight lifting regimen at 17, with no set goal or direction, just lifting for the sake of lifting. But as he grew into his game, he begun to take a more holistic approach. He realized that just lifting to workout his arms is him no good once the playoffs came around, because his legs were gone. He started his day earlier to incorporate more workouts and more areas of focus into his workout. His midnight and 5 AM workouts became legendary, and as he put it, after years of this type of routine and discipline, the chances of anyone ever catching up to him were minute. This level of commitment and discipline will always be rewarded with unimaginable success and the longevity to enjoy it. Most people have so many external factors that would never allow them to make such a commitment, be it families or friends, or fear of failure. Without dedication, without a dominant, untouchable work ethic, the process will never be completed
Feed your Mind
Kobe details his passion for film study, as it gives him a leg up on his competition and contemporaries alike. If they’re not as dedicated to learning the craft and identifying ways to beat him as he is to identifying the weaknesses he sees in them, they’ve already lost the game. If you truly love what you do, and strive to be the best at it, you should strive to learn as much about that game as you possibly can. You can never reach the pinnacle of your industry when you’re not even willing to do your due diligence. Identify the strengths and weaknesses you’ve found not only in others but definitely ones you’ve found within yourself, and work overtime until they’re all strengths. Gaining the mental edge is so underrated that some people dispute whether it exists or not. Putting yourself in the correct frame of mind before attacking any task can make all the difference, especially when your competitors lack the ability to do so.
The passion for your craft should lead you to the brink of obsession. Whatever your game is, you have to eat, sleep, live and breathe the game. You’ll put in the work to get better everyday. You’ll ask all of the important questions that nobody else thinks about. You’ll sacrifice what others could never. Preparation for the day is so much easier because you love what you’re doing, you love what you’re working towards. The little details that others miss, you master. You realize that you don’t know everything that there is to know about your game, and that drives you to get into the books, get into the training, ask the right questions, look at methods that other people tried or things they’ve never even thought of. Your obsession with knowledge and greatness will drive you to heights nobody else can reach.
Acknowledge the Other Guys
One of the best parts of this book is Kobe takes multiple opportunities to praise other people’s role in his story, in his journey. For a man writing a book about how he achieved the great things he was able to achieve across his 20 year career, you’d expect the book to border on self indulgence. Kobe’s been called selfish for decades. But he spent a good chunk of this book, talking about the impact other laker legends had on him. He talks about Jerry West being like a father to him, he talks about the lessons he learned being on the same court as Magic Johnson, he credits Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with teaching him aspects of his post game, he touches on Phil Jackson being a visionary and Tex Winter being a genius. He gives as much credit and respect to Luke Walton as he does to Shaquille O’Neal. He looks back fondly on his time playing with Byron Scott and Derek Fisher, as well as his time with Pau Gasoline, Lamar Odom, and Metta World Peace. He even talks about the importance of his relationships with the teams trainers and the game’s referees. Anybody who achieves a modicum of the success that he has must realize the importance of recognizing the people who rode with him up that road to success. Nobody is self made.
Pain Tolerance and Resiliency
No journey will ever be complete without some measure of pain. If it’s not physical pain, your journey could be trying mentally or emotionally. Some of us consistently feel the sting of failure. Kobe Bryant had to fight through pain of many kinds, on many levels. Bumps, bruises, breaks, tears, dislocations, you name it, he had it. There were years where his reputation was in shambles, due to scandals or just his perceived relationships with teammates. He didn’t win a championship every year, although he may have completely expected to. He had to recover and rebuild after failure many times. But the stronger you can get mentally, the more likely you are to have success even in pain. He’d often ask if the injury could get worse, or if this was as bad as it’d get. If this is it, and playing on it won’t make things any worse, why not play? Why not take that shot? It really takes a strong minded and strong willed individual to play or work through pain. To continue to push through everything that is trying to push you out or away. Just gotta find it within yourself.
Respect the Ones that Pushed You Further
As mentioned before, there are costars in every story. Even teammates can only push you so far. The true greats find motivation in being greater than anybody else in their industry. They take note of the great things done by their competitors and work hard and long enough to surpass those heights. Kobe takes the time to highlight some of the players he had his greatest wars with. He talks about some of his contemporaries who wound up chasing him for years. From Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo, to Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, he acknowledges things he learned from them, saw in them, or taught them himself. He acknowledges the fact that to reach the lofty standards he was chasing, he HAD TO BE better than all of them.
If you get nothing out of any of this, take with you the fact that Mamba Mentality isn’t a hashtag. It’s not just a slogan. It’s a way of life. It is the process of getting the results you’re after. It’s the 2 or 3 a day practice sessions. It’s the hours of writing. It’s the alarms set before the sun comes out. It’s the late nights finding answers or creating solutions. It is inspiring others to become the greatest possible version of themselves. As he stated, this book wasn’t just a book on basketball instruction. It was a lesson in Mamba Mentality. I pray it inspires you to become the greatest version of yourself. For yourself.