“For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes—not that you won or lost—But how you played the Game.” —Grantland Rice
Discussing Kobe Bryant has certain complications. That he played in a way that is undeniable, regardless of era, is not in doubt. Yet still, even with the allegations and falls from grace, or losing seasons, the way of the Mamba is relatable in a manner that is unmatched in pro sports and pop culture at large. The Mamba Mentality is the only approach yet to be defeated by Father Time.
Argue about who is better historically all you want, though today might not be the best for Jordan comparisons. The answer to who would you rather train with is simple. Kobe. Not everyone can fly high in rare air, obviously, there is only one human capable of pulling off what Jordan was doing at the time. He was him. However, everyone can hold themselves to the same internal accountability and intensity levels as Kobe.
MJ’s punches barely bruised Steve Kerr. Jordan’s brutality still would not hurt as much as a look of disappointment from Kobe when it’s obvious the best is not being given. Everyone comprehends how to apply the Mamba Way to their daily life. Most want to learn more, to hear one more story about that time Kobe did that thing. That’s why Kobe Bean Bryant is remembered, just as much as for any jump shot or championship celebration.
18-time All-Star. 15-time All-NBA talent. 5-time NBA champion.
20 years from being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets to becoming a global cultural icon far beyond anyone in Hollywood’s wildest dreams.
Hell, talking about acting… Kobe had his own company, the Muse documentary, and that damn commercial making fun of Jalen Rose with Jalen in on the joke. 95% of the professional actors wandering the studio lots would deal with the devil to have Bryant’s natural delivery.
4th on the NBA’s all-time scoring chart. 8th in career minutes played. 6th in total field goals made.
20 fuckin’ years we were blessed to have Kobe in our lives as a public force. To have him spark debates that lasted hours, yelling at friends and foes alike depending on how they viewed Kobe’s last game.
From Andrew Bynum to Shaq and Pau. Laker Loyal through thick and thin. An Achilles injury that would have retired a lesser man merely made Kobe seem more like us mortals, finally. He knew he was down. Not a soul this side of heaven or hell would dare say he was out, not loudly and especially not while on the same planet. He still got up and shot the free throws, after all.
The most sought-after shoe among today’s NBA players. Even for those players who stay regular all game. To let Iman Shumpert tell it:
Bryant won the NBA Finals MVP Award twice, the regular season honor just once. But that’s a title for the lesser names on the card in the Pro Wrestling WWE world. How else can Steve Nash winning in 2016 be explained? Kobe was fourth? With the second most first-place votes? Paper champ for a Playoff chump. Nash needed the boost to his CV. Kobe transcends. Bryant superseded all the media vote nonsense.
The people knew. Bryant’s game spoke. It spoke to us all.
NBA All-Star Game MVP. Four Times.
Kobe put on a show even when being booed in Philly. The pride of Lower Merion High, being chided near his childhood park. All because he stayed in Los Angeles to see out his career. It’s fitting of Philly that they booed. It was fitting of Kobe that he still put on shows during exhibitions. That part of the Mamba Mentality brought home a dunk contest title in 1997.
15 All-NBA Teams.
Kobe would consistently kick your ass all season. He only had reload management, and it was always as quick as possible. His peers knew, going back to Jordan talking about Kobe at the All-Star game in a memorable Last Dance scene.
12 All-Defense Teams.
Kobe would consistently kick ass on both ends of the court. His peers knew, going back to those Olympic runs. Take this shit serious or take your ass home. The Mamba 10 Commandments.
NBA Scoring Champ. Twice. Back to Back. 2006. 2007.
Shaq left town. Phil said Kobe was “un-coachable” now. The Lakers barely made the playoffs but they were entertaining to watch. Kobe started throwing elbows, got suspended, and still put up a week of 50 burgers and the 81-point night against Toronto.
Bill, Wilt, Kareem, Larry, Magic, Michael: All known by one name. All remembered fondly.
Now ball up a piece of paper and shoot it towards the nearest recycling bin.
Yeah, I thought so.
I’ll take those olives now. Spanish Queen.