by Christopher Castro
An 18 time All-Star, 5 time NBA Champion, 2-time Finals MVP, 2-time Scoring Champ, Olympic gold medalist, and an Oscar winner. A man who spent more than 20 years working on his craft to become the best version of himself possible, becoming one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The Black Mamba. Kobe Bryant. He labored on the court religiously using a phrase he coined: mamba mentality. Mamba mentality is the belief that you need to push your mind and your body nearly to your breaking point to become successful. In high school, he would spend seven hours throughout the school day on weightlifting, on-court training, and watching film of the game to sharpen his basketball IQ. There weren’t many high school players that could compete with Kobe. This led to him easily winning the high school state championship in 1996.
Kobe was so talented that going straight to the NBA was an option for him. Some of the best colleges, like Duke and Kentucky, tried to recruit Kobe relentlessly. He decided to go pro since he was going to be a lottery pick, or a top selection, in the NBA draft, meaning a guaranteed contract worth millions of dollars. After getting drafted 13th by the Charlotte Hornets, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, which was his favorite team growing up. He thrived in the 24/7 basketball grind that was required to be great in the NBA. A typical day consisted of 6 hours of training, including 2 hours of running, 2 hours of basketball drills, and 2 hours of weightlifting. He would exercise 6 times a week for 6 months a year. He continued his regimen for his entire twenty year career, barring injuries.
Kobe Bryant’s work ethic is what most NBA fans consider the manifestation of perfection. The drive that fueled him through all of his workouts was superhuman. His mamba mentality is a key part of his legend. People from all walks of life have been inspired by Kobe’s ideals. Whether it be Ronaldo, a famous soccer player, writing the phrase on his cleats or countless fans who have gone to the extent of tattooing Mamba Mentality to their body, it’s clear that Kobe has had a significant impact. It isn’t hard to try and compare ourselves to Kobe. Many can see it as a way to make them refocus and realize what exerting oneself can accomplish. While this might seem beneficial, it is a great way to set yourself up for failure in the long term. A perfect work ethic is not possible. You might strive to have something perfect, but it’s simply not realistic. Having such a passionate force come over yourself and push you through conflicts requires grit. Even Kobe couldn’t be perfect. He had his moments where he needed to recover and take a vacation. Deciding when to take these moments can make all the difference.
We all strive to be perfect in one way or another. When trying to set up our work ethic, we leave no room for mistakes. Whether it be cutting cold turkey from smokes, or trying to run five-miles at the gym when you’ve been a couch potato for the last 5 years, we strive to start at the top rather than work our way up. In reality, these perfect standards are impossible. Everyone needs a cheat day, or a time to take a bit more rest than usual. Everything takes time. No one can perceivably be perfect. Doing your best should be the goal.
Attempting to have a ‘perfect’ work ethic has its fair share of challenges. In Kobe Bryant’s final game, he said to the crowd, “for all the hours I spent in the gym working and training, Vanessa [his wife], you holding down the family the way that you have, there’s no way I can thank you enough for that.” What does this say about what success costs? It can make you sacrifice one of the pillars of most people’s lives: Family. When you attempt to put all of your time into something, it has to come from somewhere. Much of this time you can never get back and typically, it tends to come from family. In Kobe’s case, 20 years of playing in the NBA required having to play 6 months out of the year and traveling throughout the country for about half of it, not considering the playoffs which could take up to three more months. There isn’t much time to do the little things, especially when you become a parent. Having four daughters in itself is challenging. With three of them being born during his playing career, it made it all the more difficult. Kobe once spoke about how, when he had the chance, he would always try to drive his girls to school. Those little mundane moments thatfor many can seem tedious and boring are the key moments that forge a stronger relationship. Those little moments don’t last forever, but they can make an immense impact on the world. What you’re willing to give up is on you. You have to make the decision whether it is worth sacrificing time with friends and family in order to achieve what you want. That can be the difference between being good and being the greatest.
Through the positives and negatives, work ethic is important to have. Some of the greatest people in their craft, like Kobe, have spent their entire lives trying to improve each and every day. Kobe’s Mamba Mentality was key in making him who he was. With his recent passing, the basketball world has sought solace from many fronts. Every NBA team has paid tribute to Kobe and his way of striving for greatness. It was this mindset that made him keep pushing what his body and mind are capable of. If we all have a piece of Mamba Mentality in our lives, then we can reach our goals. Figuring out when to have pain and pleasure is crucial. Being successful is hard. With just a smidge of mamba mentality, any goals you set out for can be possible.