Kobe Bryant was born on August 23rd 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Son of former NBA player Joe “jellybean” Bryant. Kobe was named after a town in Japan. Ironically Kobe is known for its marbled beef and amazing scenic views of mountains framing the harbor. Don’t see why it’s ironic? Good. Enjoy where I’m taking this.
“I heard the ball bouncing. No lights were on. Practice was at about 11, it was probably about 9, 9:30. And I go out to the court and I look, and there’s Kobe Bryant. He’s out there shooting in the dark. And I stood there for probably about ten seconds, and I said, ‘This kid is gonna be great.'”
Before the start of the 1999-2000 season the Lakers and Jerry West would add their 3rd and final piece to the next NBA Dynasty. Head Coach, and zen master Phil Jackson. In Phil’s first year with Shaq and Kobe the Lakers would win the first of 3 NBA finals. 2000,2001,2002 Kobe added 3 rings to his resume. Another quick pivot here, because during this run is when tensions and hostility really grow between Shaq and Bryant. During 2000-2001 after winning the NBA Championship Shaq would come into camp out of shape. Due to this, and my biggest gripe against the whole “Shaq carried Kobe” argument, the triangle was now really a Kobe ran system. So much so that Shaq asked for a trade after Kobe dropped 38 points on Phoenix and Shaq contributed only 18. They would repeat. Tensions would diminish slightly the following year as Bryant and Jackson both suffered losses in their personal life. Also the country would be tested as a whole following September 11th 2001. Making LA forget their drama and focus on the job at hand. There’s the 3 peat. And that would be the last for Shaq and Kobe. However they would return to the NBA finals in 2004 with Shaq, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. They would be upset by the Detroit Pistons, and before long the Lakers dominance would end. And would go from the Shaq and Kobe era, and enter a Mamba.
Why? Why’s it so important? Well for those of you who know Bryant, it’s what turned him into the next phase. After being painted as a villain. And numerous outlets reporting his lack of warmth towards teammates. Kobe would look to study and analyze anything to be a better basketball player. For example, Kobe’s midrange game. This is how brilliant of a mind we are talking about. This man, this cerebral brilliant obsessed man, studied Cheetahs hunting to improve his fade-away jumper. Phillip Galanes, New York Times interview with Bryant was told how Bryant figures this out. “When you watch me shoot my fadeaway jumper, you’ll notice my leg is always extended. I had problems making that shot in the past. It’s tough. So one day I’m watching the Discovery Channel and see a cheetah hunting. When the cheetah runs, its tail always gives it balance, even if it’s cutting a sharp angle. And that’s when I was like: My leg could be the tail, right?” Amazing. But this would spark a deeper passion. And one that would change the NBA, and well frankly the world, forever. Kobe after watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” Kobe was interested in a code name. In an article with the New Yorker Kobe explained why he would create this persona. “The name just evokes such a negative emotion,” Bryant would tell the magazine. “I said, ‘If I create this alter ego, so now when I play this is what’s coming out of your mouth, it separates the personal stuff, right?’ You’re not watching David Banner — you’re watching the Hulk.” To follow up this segment Kobe was with friend Ahmad Rashad and would give the most Kobe-like quote yet. “When I step on that court, I become that. I am that killer snake. I’m stone cold, man.” So what type of mindset was he using? What ego did he adapt? Why’s it game changing? Because Mamba Mentality would change the league forever.
On January 22,2006 Kobe showed the Mamba Mentality to the purest form. He would also drop the most memorable scoring performance of the century. Kobe would drop 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. He was 28-46. 60%…60% from the field and 7-13 from 3pt range. He would also drop 62 against the Dallas Mavericks on December 20th 2005. Why’s that impressive? He didn’t play the 4th Quarter!! Kobe would average 35.4 points per game in the 05-06 season, and 31.6 in 06-07. The following season 2007-08 Bryant would go on to win his first Most Valuable Player Award. However during this time Bryant would also ask the Los Angeles Lakers for a trade. Kobe wanted to be traded to the Chicago Bulls. Bryant was growing frustrated dragging teams with Kwame Brown, Smush Parker and company to the playoffs and being eliminated fairly early. During this time, Spurs, led by Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginòbili and Tony Parker would be a power house in the western conference. The Phoenix Suns would also become dominant led by 2x MVP and eventual teammate of Kobe, Steve Nash, would lead an upbeat offense that would take the league by storm. Nash, was not along either. Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and Leandro Barbosa would also battle with Kobe. The Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks would also emerge as a team built well for postseason play as well. Jazz led by Andrei Kirilenko, with young upcoming guard Deron Williams, with Carlos Boozer Paul Millsap and Laker alum Derek Fisher. Dallas would be led by future Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki with Jason “the Jet” Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and Erik Dampier. So Kobe wanted out to be on a building team after he felt the Lakers grew complacent. There was a trade in place with the Detroit Pistons, Kobe would head to Detroit, Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and draft picks would go to the Lakers. Kobe said no, I gave you a list of teams I want to go to, Detroit was not that team. A Bulls trade never emerged as Chicago did not want to include a package involving Luol Deng. So what resolves the issue. The mamba would get his next co-star. A 7-foot Spanish forward from the Memphis Grizzlies, Pau Gasol.
Kobe would return faster than expected from this injury only a few months later to be sidelined again by a fractured kneecap. Kobe would return and monitor his minutes as he planned to retire. In typical Kobe fashion he went out on top. Kobe in his final game, dropped 60..yes..60 points. Mamba mentality on full display.