It was a triumphant Naomi Osaka on Saturday and an expectant Darius Slay Jr. on Sunday. No matter the sport or the occasion, athletes continue to draw deep inspiration from Kobe Bryant. After winning her second U.S. Open title, Osaka tweeted that she wore the Lower Merion High School star’s Lakers jersey every day after her matches, claiming she believes it gave her strength.
Slay was simpler with his words before battling Washington, saying “Long live the Mamba." His pregame, custom Kobe Bryant short-sleeve hoodie was anything but simple. The “8” in the Lakers style hooded shirsey was outlined in snake skin.
All most people want is to make an impact in the time they are alive. The hope is to leave something behind that people can recognize as the representation of what you believed in and hopefully desire it for themselves. Bryant has left an indelible stamp that I’m not sure even he realized, but it extends far beyond the basketball court.
Bryant wasn’t flawless off the court, although it wouldn’t be hyperbole if you thought that about him on it. What I’ve noticed is that, adjacent to his GOAT-like presence in between the lines, his dogged focus to achieve those heights or the “Mamba Mentality” is something athletes use to push themselves through and above their goals.
Bryant wrote a book about it called “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play." He explains in the book how he always tried to “kill the opposition," which is how the most competitive athletes thrive. I don’t know if he quite understood how his approach would reach so many.
I think Nike and Kendrick Lamar put it best in their most recent offering about Bean:
His commitment to achievement has forced many to just be better.