Mamba Mentality: The Mindset That Made Kobe Bryant a Master

Though Bryant is gone, his legacy lives through all those inspired by his dedication to excellence.

Throughout his 20-year NBA career, Bryant’s basketball prowess earned him 18 All-Star selections, five NBA championship titles, two NBA Finals MVP awards, and two Olympic gold medals. Off the court, Bryant was a published author, philanthropist, partner of a venture capital firm, head of his own media studio, and a dedicated father to four girls.

Though Bryant did possess heaps of raw talent, his fellow professional athletes contend it was his sheer mental fortitude that propelled him to greatness. Bryant had one of the most determined and electric mindsets not just for a basketball player but also for any human living on this earth.

Bryant’s mindset can be summed up in his own coinage: the “Mamba mentality.” Understanding it provides a glimpse into what made him so great, and it has profound implications for our own lives, as well.

Mamba Mentality

The alter-ego helped Bryant cultivate his own philosophy. Simply stated, Mamba mentality means “just trying to get better every day.” It’s the “simplest form of just trying to get better at whatever you’re doing.” Sure, it’s not mind-blowing as far as philosophy goes, but it is practical and actionable. In his Mamba Mentality autobiography, Bryant explains in more detail the importance of mastery and the lessons of failure. He discusses the power of obsession:

If you want to be great in a particular area, you have to obsess over it. A lot of people say they want to be great, but they’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness. They have other concerns, whether important or not, and they spread themselves out.

It’s easy for people to point at masters like Bryant and remark that their talent is simply God-given. But the reality is that even though some might have natural attributes or abilities, what distinguishes the ordinary from the extraordinary is the amount of work and dedication put into perfecting a craft. Bryant knew this best.

Bryant was always the first one to show up at practice, sometimes injured, and often before the lights even came on—sometimes five hours before practice even started. He once warmed up before a practice from 4:15 a.m. to 11 a.m., refusing to leave until he made 800 shots.

Even in high school, Bryant would practice from 5 a.m. until 7 a.m.—before classes started. He would also challenge his high school teammates to one-on-one matches, first to 100. He won his worst game 100-12.

Off the court, Bryant was just as obsessive. He cold-called and texted numerous business people and entrepreneurs to pick their brains about success, sometimes at 3 a.m. He started his own media company dedicated to storytelling and produced a short animated documentary that won an Oscar. He taught himself to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” by ear on the piano.

In addition to mastery, one must accept failure as part of the learning process. Failure is inevitable, and when gone about the right way, it has a lot to teach us about improvement. On the importance of it, Bryant states:

If I wanted to implement something new into my game, I’d see it and try incorporating it immediately. I wasn’t scared of missing, looking bad, or being embarrassed. That’s because I always kept the end result, the long game, in my mind. I always focused on the fact that I had to try something to get it, and once I got it, I’d have another tool in my arsenal. If the price was a lot of work and a few missed shots, I was OK with that.

Bryant realized that if you want to improve or learn something new, you’re going to fail at your first attempts. But through repetition and trials, you will eventually improve. When you understand that, failure becomes an integral tool in bettering yourself.

That’s an important thing to keep in mind. What inhibits many from achieving or even pursuing goals is the fear of failure or embarrassing one’s self.

Mamba-fy Your Own Life

Bryant shared his Mamba mentality with countless individuals, teams, and organizations in hopes of giving them the mindset to achieve greatness. The benefit of this philosophy is you don’t have to be a superstar to actualize it in your own life.

Think about what Bryant tried to impart. What areas in your life could you apply it to? Are there certain things you’re good at that you could become a master of? Are you putting in the work necessary to accomplish mastery? Are you letting the fear of failure inhibit your pursuit of success?

It’s tragic that Bryant was taken from this world so young. One of the best ways to honor the dead, however, is to take the best aspects of their character and integrate them in your own life, letting the light of them shine through you.

That may be the proper way to view a person’s legacy. It’s the impact on others that continues to exist, long after we leave this body. Though Bryant is gone, his legacy lives through all those inspired by his dedication to excellence.


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