OPINION: A farewell to the Black Mamba

Kobe Bryant left an undeniable mark on the sports world

An illustration of Kobe Bryant. 

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash Sunday morning. Kobe Bryant by Augustine Madriaga is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

An illustration of Kobe Bryant. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash Sunday morning. “Kobe Bryant” by Augustine Madriaga is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Nijzel Dotson

Some people have so much influence on the culture that their death has the ability to make the world stop momentarily, to make others drop whatever they’re doing and rush to social media, and express their full support of that person.

Kobe Bryant was without a doubt one of those people. The public’s reaction to the heartbreaking news of his untimely death when he, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday, proved it.

It’s clear that the Los Angeles Lakers legend and future NBA Hall of Famer inspired so many people, myself included, with his relentless work ethic on-and-off the court and his burning desire to achieve greatness in all that he did.

When I first saw the news, my heart sank to my stomach immediately, overwhelmed by shock, I had several emotions hitting me at once. Shortly after, a strange feeling came over me and suddenly I was a little less frantic. A sense of denial crept into my mind much stronger than it ever has in my entire life. 

For a very brief period of time I was able to convince myself that it was all wrong, and that TMZ was going to be in a world of trouble for this false clickbait report they were running. If it were someone else, maybe. But Kobe? Never. No way. No how.

Not long after, reality hit me. Crushing my dreams like a fourth-quarter dagger from Bryant himself. The flurry of commemoration posts, unexpected phone calls and text messages of disbelief finally made the tragedy real to me.

Contextualizing the situation so soon and trying to find the right words to represent such an icon is difficult, but in my attempt to do so, I’ve realized that my initial reluctance to accept Bryant’s death can be attributed to one of the most outstanding parts of his legacy.

Kobe has a certain mystique unlike any other athlete I can think of. Of course there are many others associated with dominance and victory in their respective sports, but Kobe’s reputation as a winner not only matches that of some of the greatest athletes of all time, but transcends his pedigree on the court.

Part of what made this all feel so impossible is that when I think of Kobe, and quite frankly, when anyone thinks of Kobe, they think about perseverance, fearlessness, unbreakable focus and an unmatched commitment to success. 

Kobe was a superhero. His fans saw him not as someone who was untouchable, but unbreakable. He was a man of many aliases, most notably, “The Black Mamba.” He coined the phrase “Mamba Mentality” as a way to embody all those above-mentioned factors of hard work that made him who he was, whether he was winning championships, writing a New York Times best-seller, winning Oscars, or just trying to be the best father and husband he could possibly be.

The “Mamba Mentality” is the biggest reason why Kobe will always be one of my favorite athletes. Kobe was one of the most skilled players ever and a tremendous athlete in his prime, but his “Mamba Mentality” was his greatest advantage. It made him the most feared player of the 21st century by his peers and any fans of the opposing team. It propelled him to one of the greatest NBA careers we’ve ever seen. But most importantly, it’s something that anyone can embrace and strive to live by.  

I could never in a million years be Kobe Bryant on the court, but because of the “Mamba Mentality”, I can still be like him. I’ve been inspired and will continue to be inspired by him to put 120% into everything I do, to never lose my focus toward accomplishing my goals and to get right back up every time I’m knocked down.

I’m far from the only person that feels this way. That is why the world stopped for a day, why the NBA considered canceling games on the day of his passing and why I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I didn’t write this.

Thank you Kobe Bryant, for all the memories, lessons and inspiration you gave to an entire generation.