There are a lot of characters in the NBA. Kobe Bryant is only one of them, but he’s one of the most iconic and recognizable players of all time. He won five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, was named Finals MVP three times, and is one of just two players—along with Jerry West—to have been named Finals MVP at least 25 times in their career. Bryant’s competitiveness fueled his competitive drive. It fueled his drive to win games and championships. And it fueled his drive to be the very best that he can be every day. Every player wants to play their best game on every single occasion and be ready for anything that comes their way. Playing your best doesn’t always mean having your best shot or taking your best dribble; it also means playing with poise, composure and confidence under pressure. Offering your fullest effort isn’t always about being 100 percent or perfect; it’s about playing to your strengths while limiting your weaknesses as much as possible and minimizing any potential distractions that could take you out of the moment. The following are six ways Kobe Bryant showed us how we can apply his mamba mentality to our daily lives:
Work out with a purpose
When Bryant was in his prime, he was one of the fittest players in the league. And it wasn’t just because he was one of the few players who could regularly beat most of the professionals on the other teams in the league in a game of one-on-one. He was also one of the few players who conducted most of his own training and lifting sessions. He had the mindset of a competitor, and knew that he had to be in the best shape possible if he was going to compete against average-sized and below-average-athletic players on a consistent basis. He also knew that being in the best shape of his career was important not only for his own body and health, but also for his team as it would help him be more effective on the court and lift his teammates’ collective spirits.
Don’t take nights off
Bryant’s work ethic was always something that stood out to fans and observers of the game. He was a player who was always grinding it out, regardless of where he was in the standings or what his team’s record was. If his team was on a long road trip, he would still put in the same amount of work in practices and shootarounds as if he was home in Los Angeles or playing in front of his fans at the Staples Center. At the same time, if the Lakers were on a winning streak or were in the middle of a tight race for a playoff spot, Bryant would still put in his usual high level of work and intensity. He had a simple mindset: If he was on a losing streak, he would train and prepare as if he was on a winning streak. If he was in the middle of a tight playoff race, he would train and prepare as if he was in contention for the championship.
Stay true to your game
Bryant was always one of the few players who wasn’t afraid to completely change his game and alter his gameplan to adapt to the opponent he was playing. He was someone who would tweak his game from season to season, from year to year, even from month to month. He didn’t believe that he had to stick with the same gameplan for years and years and decades like some other players in the league. He came up with a new gameplan every year and every season, but he always stuck with his core principles. He was someone who was always willing to adapt, even if it was just a slight tweak here and there, but he remained steadfast in his principles.
Show up to work ready to win
Bryant wasn’t just a competitor who wanted to win games and find ways to win championships. He also knew that if you were going to be on a team of champions, you had to be prepared to actually win games. And that meant that you had to be prepared to put in the work in practice, which is something Bryant was never afraid to do. He knew that if he wanted to be an NBA champion, he was going to have to earn his way there. And that meant that he was going to have to be willing to do the dirty work and do the little things well, things like setting screens, rolling to the basket, cutting to the hoop, and doing the things on the court that don’t show up in the box score every night.
Master the fundamentals
When it comes to the NBA, being a true seven-footer with great athletic ability is one thing. But it’s another thing entirely to be able to apply that athletic ability to the game in an efficient way. Bryant was one of the very few players who could do that. He was someone who could use his athleticism to his advantage by attacking the basket, drawing defenders near the rim, and finishing through contact, but could also use his athleticism to set up his teammates by spacing the floor and getting open looks for wide-open jumpers. He had an uncanny ability to see the floor and find open teammates on the perimeter or in the corner. He also had a knack for drawing double-teams and sneaking open shots for his teammates.
Bryant had the ability to change a game with a single play or a single basket. He could single-handedly turn a game around for his team. He could single-handedly swing a playoff series in favor of one team or another. He could single-handedly lift his teammates’ spirits and lift their game as well. He could single-handedly impact his team’s chances of winning by simply being on the floor and setting an example for his teammates. Bryant had an uncanny ability to impact games with his presence and his skill set. He had the ability to change the course of a game with a single play or a single basket, and he could turn a game around for his team with a single basket by himself. Bryant had an uncanny ability to lift the spirits of his teammates and lift their game as well. He had the ability to impact his team’s chances of winning simply by showing up and playing. Mamba mentality is not just about basketball. It’s about being the best you can be every day. And that starts with taking the time to develop your own mamba mentality and putting it to use as often as possible.