Mamba, Thank you.

I have been thinking about this post for a long time (ironically enough, for 24 days exactly). While I do not expect to post anything you probably have not already read, I want to contribute to the conversation about Kobe and Gigi.

As a disclaimer, I am not discounting the tragedy in any way by only discussing two of the victims. For the purpose of this post, I am focusing on Gigi and Kobe and their impact on women’s basketball. Trust me when I say, I have thought (and even cried) about the others involved in the helicopter accident. I have mourned the loss of individuals I have not had a personal connection to, and I have certainly mourned for those who lost someone they DID have a personal connection with. To keep my post on track and my tears in check, I have picked on specific point to make, so don’t miss it.  

Kobe Bryant was the first ever player I remember watching. I remember my brother and I being lone Laker fans growing up in South Dakota. We would constantly get made fun of by the Timberwolves fans we went to school with (like they had so much on us, right?). My brother and I would play games of basketball in our basement, sporting an old MJ jersey, Kobe 24, and an occasional O’Neil jersey. When we outgrew our small hoop, we started playing the 2k games on our PS2 (now I am aging myself). I remember always picking Kobe when I played because I knew I could click the shoot button from pretty much anywhere, and Kobe’s player would sink it. No questions, just cash.

Anyway, I am not writing this to reminisce about my subpar 2k and mini-Hooper days. As I grew up and retired from playing basketball, I still found myself appreciating Kobe. I came to appreciate him in an entirely different way recently. If we are admiring Kobe Bryant exclusively for his ability as a basketball player, we are doing ourselves an injustice. Kobe was a phenomenal individual athlete. Truly, one of the best to play the game. As an individual, he made his share of mistakes. While these mistakes off the court, including a sexual assault in the early 2000s, do not take away from his basketball accomplishments they are causing some controversy. I do not wish to speak ill of the dead, but I believe it is something that needs to be noted. Thousands of survivors of sexual assault are watching the entire world mourn the loss of someone who hurt them (metaphorically).

What amazes me is everyone’s quick response to say how great of a dad, player, women’s sport advocate, and coach that Kobe was. You know what? He was. But let us take this time to really think about his legacy and help further it. I am talking about the legacy he was investing in within the last 5 years. The legacy of Gigi. The legacy of women’s basketball and the W. I do not have a daughter (or even kids at that), but I do know that children are the way we let our legacy live on. Kobe knew what he was doing. The Mamba’s mentality will always be excellence, both on and off the court. The legacy within Gigi was something only the Mamba saw coming.

He knew exactly what he was doing. He was grooming Gigi (Baby Mamba) to be the next Kobe of the WNBA. Imagine that, in 2025 a female athlete skipping college and joining the ranks of the professionals, just like her dad. What doors would be open for those in those sport spaces. Mamba mentality (post 2016, when he retired) was building this legacy. He built a dynasty on the court and was able to leave that behind for something bigger.

So, for all the true Kobe fans out there (which I think we all have some Mamba in us), this is my challenge.

Promote his legacy. Promote all of the young Mambas out there pursuing their dreams.

These dreams might be hooper dreams or they might be not be sport related at all. If we want to continue the Mamba mentality, we will continue to promote what he was promoting in the legacy of his daughters. Mamba mentality can be applied to so many areas of our life and work. And, while there are many different components to this, I am specifically talking about his role as a “advocate.” It does not have to be for sports specifically. He was advocating and he was building. It just happened to be through young women in sports. Kobe did it, it must be cool.

Growing up, I wanted to be like Kobe. Today, I still want to be like him in other ways. I watched this man change from who I aspired to be as a player to who I aspired to be as an inspiration. Kobe, you were much more than an athlete. I hope we can all find our Gigi to lift up the way you were lifting her. The world will be a much better place if we can all channel that part of the Mamba Mentality.

The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.

Kobe Bryant

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