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"He had that ‘Mamba Mentality’ at 15, 16 years old" - Kobe Bryant was already teaching Rip Hamilton how to become lethal prior to NBA

Hamilton said he witnessed Kobe Bryant's “Mamba Mentality” long before it even rose to prominence.
Rip Hamilton & Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant and Rip Hamilton

Whether because of the raw grit during his No. 8 days or the cold-blooded killer instinct of his famous mantra, “Mamba Mentality,” one thing Kobe Bryant fans have in common is the adulation for his work ethic. But while many assume that the late Los Angeles Lakers legend honed all that as he made bones in the league, former Detroit Pistons guard Rip Hamilton begged to disagree.

Rip had seen it way before everybody did

At the NBA 75 team ceremony, Hamilton was among the chosen NBA legends to share a few things about Bryant in honor of his legacy. According to Hamilton, who went head-to-head with Kobe in the epic 2004 NBA Finals duel between the Lakers and the Pistons, he learned a lot of things from Black Mamba. What’s even more interesting, Hamilton said he witnessed that “Mamba Mentality” long before it even rose to prominence.

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“I’ve been knowing him since we were kids,” Hamilton said in an NBA 75 Stories video honoring Bryant. “Very special human being. [He] Taught me a whole lot, especially from the simple fact of having a killer instinct. Like people seen that, when you hear ‘Mamba Mentality,’ like people hear that late. Kobe, championships, MVPs, and everything like that. No, he had that ‘Mamba Mentality’ at 15, 16 years old.”

Zero tolerance for failure

Without a doubt, Bryant has had that in him at an early age. However, jumping straight to the pros as a teenager wasn’t all fairytales. As a boy in a grown man’s league, young Kobe had to endure an array of adversities. But like Hamilton, then-Lakers general manager Jerry West also witnessed Bryant’s indomitable will to succeed. And as per West, it did not happen in one of Bryant’s historic winning moments. Instead, it took place during his infamous airball party playoff game against the Utah Jazz in 1997.

“If somebody would have shot an air ball on our team and they had shot a second one, they would only shoot a third one. He was fearless. I think that’s one of the things that spurred him to greatness,” West said of Kobe. “He wasn’t going to allow himself to fail.”

Unsurprisingly, there are more unfathomed Bryant stories out there waiting to be told. But regardless of how many more people share their experiences with the deceased NBA icon, it would tell the same thing: Bryant was cut from a different cloth.

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