5..4..3..2.. The clock ticks down, you give a little shimmy of the shoulders and you fade away, shooting that old assignment into the trash can over two of your classmates. As the paper floats through the air you shout “Kobe”. This displays the confidence and assurance that it was going in. 1.. The paper bounced from one side of the trash can to the other and rolls in. You hold your follow through proudly over your head. Winner. Game over.

None of us have probably ever met Kobe nor did we know him on any type of personal level but that didn’t stop us from shouting his name every time we shot that crumpled up piece of paper into the trashcan. We watched him hit game winning shot after game winning shot. He left his imprint on the whole world. His reach was beyond measure and it was deeper than just basketball. However, being a basketball player myself, it’s impossible to not bask over Kobe Bryant. He was the epitome of hard work. He was never going to be overworked and because of that he felt no fear. He was a perfectionist in every sense of the word and his knowledge for the game was unfathomable. He was so inspiring. He inspired me. He inspired many. And he will continue to inspire the world.

My senior year of college, I read the book, “Relentless — From Good to Great to Unstoppable.” I would recommend this book to anyone that aspires to be the best and isn’t afraid to be challenged. The author, Tim S. Grover, questions your true desire to be great in an aggressive and blunt manner but therefore when you finish the book, you’ll know where you and your true dedication stands. The foundation of this book was based on the great athletes that sacrificed it all to be unstoppable. Tim S. Grover worked and trained the most recognizable names in sports; Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade, and Kobe Bryant. That’s when I fell in love with the mindset of Kobe Bryant — Mamba Mentality. I loved his approach to training and life. Get better everyday and be the best version of yourself in the process. His rigorous training schedule and stories shared in the book seemed unrealistic and honestly straight up obnoxious. People don’t wake up at 4am everyday. They also don’t shoot in a dark gym, waiting for the lights to be turned on. That’s not normal. It’s true, most people don’t, but most people aren’t Kobe Bryant.

“We all can be masters at our craft, but you have to make a choice. What I mean by that is, there are inherent sacrifices that come along with that. Family time, hanging out with friends, being a great friend, being a great son, nephew, whatever the case may be. There are sacrifices that come along with making that decision.”

To be unstoppable you can’t be like everyone else. You can’t act normal or you will be normal. You have to be willing to do the things others aren’t willing to do. That’s the message I took from the famous sports figure, Kobe Bryant. He painted this mirage that anyone can be great if you’re willing to make sacrifices. This image went deeper than sports and could be motivation to anyone who took the time to discover and dissect his messages he shared with the world. He had a platform through sports but he was so much more than that.

I fell in love with Kobe and sadly, fell in love with him a little too late. I grew up watching and admiring basketball players like Candace Parker and Sue Bird. Strong and empowering women athletes. Those were the idols. I wanted to be just like them. With that, he was already retired when I truly appreciated his Mamba Mentality but that didn’t stop me from researching and using his stories and mindset as continuous motivation. I fell in love with the retired Kobe. The one that stood up for women’s sports. Supporting the WNBA, the woman athletes that shared the same desire to be great and the SAME dedication to their sport, yet are often discredited.

Kobe’s legacy will live on forever but my heart breaks for the legacy of Gianna Bryant that will never have the opportunity to be created. You heard the story on Jimmy Kimmel about people saying to Kobe that he needs to have a boy to carry on the Legacy and Gianna corrects them and says “Oi, I got this” (Video Link). Maybe she would have been the next role model for the younger generation. Maybe they would have aspire to be just like her. Maybe she would have carried out that image of dedication, sacrifice, work ethic, and that Mamba Mentality. Maybe for the next few decades, Bryant posters would continue to hang from the walls of kids all over the world but this time it could have been for the young girls of the world. Yes, that’s all hypothetical but for me that’s what breaks my heart. She showed a love for the game at such a young age and the media displayed for all of us to see. I was cheering for her. I was cheering for her to be that bad ass little athlete to carry on that name of Bryant. And mostly, to show the world that they didn’t need a boy to do it.

Today, I pray for the Bryant family and the other families that were affected by this tragedy. It’s eye opening how quickly our lives can be changed and how precious each day we have really is. Life isn’t promised and we should take full advantage of the opportunities we do have. Set dreams and chase them, strive to be the absolute best version of yourself, but most importantly, today and everyday, make sure you tell the people you care about, you love them.

RIP Mamba Mentality<3

- Laken James

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