A few days ago, we remembered the tragic death of Gianna and Kobe Bryant, along with seven others, by way of a helicopter crash two years ago in Calabasas, Southern California. The shock of the incident has wavered, but the pain and sadness of the basketball world are still rather fresh, and after two years, we still hold onto memories of the Black Mamba to bring smiles back to our faces calm our minds. Some will remember Kobe most for the buzzer-beaters and highlight dunks, others for the five championships he won with the Los Angeles Lakers, but most will remember him for Mamba Mentality and his maniacal approach to game preparation.
Obssesed with Iverson
A little over a year post his retirement, Bryant spoke via The Players’ Tribune on what seemed to be one of his favorite recollections from his career, his battles with NBA legend Allen Iverson. The two basketball icons met in the 2000 NBA Finals, where the Lakers dominated the 76ers to win the series 4-1 after a shocking loss at home in the opening game thanks to Iverson’s heroics.
Despite being relatively small for NBA standards, Iverson was a force of nature and proved to be such in what was the first Finals game for himself. However, after his exceptional performance in Game 1, the Lakers switched Kobe Bryant onto him and ultimately slowed Iverson down to the point where Los Angeles dominated the outmatched 76ers. Apparently, Bryant had been preparing this moment long before their Finals match-up commenced, and needless to say, his preparation paid dividends.
“I obsessively read every article and book I could find about AI. I obsessively watched every game he had played, going back to the IUPU All-American Game. I obsessively studied his every success, and his every struggle. I obsessively searched for any weakness I could find.” - Kobe Bryant, The Players’ Tribune, 2017
Learning about the game
Bryant’s drive to take his preparation for Iverson so seriously apparently came from the disappointment he felt after A.I torched him for 41 points in the 1999 regular season. Kobe vowed never to let another player dictate upon him like that again, and perhaps, that’s when his maniacal Mamba Mentality was born. Bryant then proceeded to study every aspect of Iverson’s game, not just as a professional but in every step of AI’s basketball life. Kobe even alluded to how white sharks hunt seals on the South African coast in how he prepared for Iverson.
“The patience. The timing. The angles.” - Kobe Bryant, The Players’ Tribune, 2017
Patience, Timing, and Angles were precisely the three aspects of the game that Iverson perfected to succeed in a game that was otherwise for tall and athletic men. When Bryant figured out how to counter Iverson’s mastery of these aspects, he put himself in a much better position to make life difficult on The Answer. That obsessive mindset and unrelenting pursuit of excellence made the loss of Kobe so painful to the basketball world. The values he anchored his game on became an inspiration to the average person and inspired many to give their absolute best in their respective crafts.
It is that mindset and pursuit that many believe is missing from today’s NBA. Like many of the greats that have moved on from the game, one can only hope that his memory carries on through generations of NBA players to come despite Bryant no longer being with us. So while we continue to search for that same passion and drive today, we believe that one day it will come. However, there will never be another Kobe Bean Bryant.