“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. That’s totally fine. After all, greatness is not for everybody.”
Kobe Bryant was willing to make the sacrifices necessary. In fact, very few in NBA history were willing to go to the extent Kobe went to in order to achieve greatness. Bryant would practice without the ball for hours. He would watch film of himself at halftime. He swam with great whites to become fearless on the basketball court. He even went to Germany to get a procedure on his knee.
But perhaps the most Mamba Mentality thing of all was when, after suffering the worst ankle sprain of his career in the '00 NBA Finals, Kobe learned to tap dance.
That was my worst sprain, but it certainly wasn’t my first. I realized at that point I needed to be proactive about strengthening my ankle. After researching the matter, it became apparent that tap dancing was going to be the best way to build up my ankle strength while simultaneously improving my foot speed and rhythm. So I hired an instructor and started going to the studio. I worked on it all of that summer and benefitted for the rest of my career.
Kobe Bryant, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play
And while injury prevention was the main trigger that got Kobe into tap dancing, there was also a hidden motivation behind his months-long adventure. "I asked him point-blank why he wanted to learn tap," said Jason Berkowitz, Kobe's dancing coach. "He told me that he knew Michael Jordan took ballet, and as one of his heroes, he wanted to do something similar to learn rhythm, balance, and coordination. He was doing something to emulate his heroes and to be the best at his craft.”
That's Mamba Mentality for you—a willingness to go to extremes to gain any competitive advantage over the others. No one was better at it than the late great NBA icon. That's why these types of stories paint the perfect picture of what Kobe was, is, and forever will be - the standard for greatness, no matter the field of endeavor.