As the world continues to mourn the sudden and tragic death of Kobe Bryant, fans of the athlete and community leader are also remembering what made him one of basketball’s most iconic players in history. On and off the court, Bryant constantly strove to be the best version of himself, thanks in due part to what he frequently referred to as his “Mamba Mentality.”
Bryant dubbed himself “Black Mamba” after seeing “Kill Bill” in 2003. Inspired by Uma Thurman’s assassin heroine named for the snake of the same name, Bryant adopted the nickname to highlight his skills and presence on the basketball court. In particular, he sought to personify the Black Mamba for its speed and accuracy. "When I step on that court, I become that,” he told sportscaster Ahmad Rashad in 2015. “I am that killer snake. I'm stone cold, man."
From the “Black Mamba” nickname stemmed the “Mamba Mentality,” which Bryant has defined as always aiming to be better at what one does. Bryant possessed a goal-achieving personality — from obtaining multiple accolades over 20 years in the NBA to supporting his daughters. The contagious energy spread through his “Mamba Mentality” namesake as the years went on. Bryant frequently talked about it in interviews and naming his 2018 book after the phrase.
The Kobe Bryant self-named focus remains a popular approach to sports for athletes and is no doubt a large part of Bryant’s legacy. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are among those who adopted “Mamba Mentality” after Bryant, particularly James, who became something of a protege to Bryant over the years. James recently surpassed Bryant to become the NBA's third-highest scorer of all time. Bryant's final tweet congratulated the athlete on beating his record and hoped to pay it forward.
"Mamba Mentality" is perhaps what made Bryant the youngest NBA player in the 1996 draft and cultivated two decades worth of wins for the Los Angeles Lakers. It's the same mentality that he says helped him score 60 points even in his final NBA game. And, although Bryant retired from basketball before his death, he carried the "Mamba Mentality" with him into his post-game career with his Oscar-winning short, Dear Basketball.
Now, in the wake of his sudden death, many are commemorating Kobe Bryant's Black Mamba alter ego that resonated across multiple generations. Today, kids are dunking crumpled pieces of paper into trash cans and yelling "KOBE!" in his honor — and that's the exact mentality his legacy will leave behind.