Gilbert Arenas remembers his rookie year in Golden State observing from a distance Kobe Bryant’s unmatched work ethic. Arenas would show up to the arena for a game hours before tipoff to see Kobe already in a game sweat in his practice jersey three to four hours before tip-off.
By that time, Bryant had already won two of his five NBA titles, and recognized as a certified NBA superstar.
It was then the relationship went from competitors to a mutual admiration society.
But it wasn’t until both players retired when Bryant started challenging Arenas to do more with his basketball intellect.
In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington, Arenas recently spoke about the moment Kobe demanded Gil to pay his basketball knowledge forward.
"Shouldn’t you be doing something besides being an internet troll?" Bryant told Arenas.
“Why are you letting your brain go to waste on your couch, on the internet, when you can be putting it into basketball?"
This back-and-forth of Kobe challenging Arenas to do something with his untapped basketball IQ after playing went on for about two years.
Finally, it clicked for Arenas when he attended a basketball tournament at the Mamba Academy. Bryant introduced Arenas to his 13-year-old daughter Giana, who was an aspiring basketball talent herself.
Arenas recalls Kobe telling Gigi: “This is the son of a (expletive) that scored 60 on me."
To which Arenas said Gigi replied: “Yeah, he talks about you all the time”.
Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragically died in a helicopter accident back on January 26th, 2020.
Before his death Kobe inspired Gilbert to get into coaching and put his brain to use.
“Once the tragedy happened, I was like I’m going to go full bore,” says Arenas.
Since that moment of clarity, Arenas started to workout his own kids who are aspiring basketball players, and has even worked out LeBron James’ son Bronny.
This NBA offseason, Arenas was in Los Angeles advising John Wall on how to improve his jump shot.
What started as a mental challenge by Kobe has become a moment of untapped coaching potential for Arenas, that passing of knowledge forward is the truest form of giving back to the game of basketball.
And isn’t that what the Mamba Mentality is all about?