Remembering the Mamba


American River College basketball player Vernon Robertson inscribed a tribute to Kobe Bryant on his shoes prior to a game versus Cosumnes River College on Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo by Thomas Cathey)

Brandon Zamora

On Jan. 26, a helicopter crashed down in Calabasas, Calif., killing nine people. Two of those people were Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. 

People all around the world have been affected emotionally by this tragic event. From the families who lost their loved ones in the crash, to fans, to players and coaches in the National Basketball Association, everyone around the world is hurting from this horrific accident. 

When he was 17, Bryant made the decision to skip college and go straight to the NBA draft right out of high school. Bryant would be drafted 13th overall in the first round by the Charlotte Hornets, but was quickly traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he would spend his 20-year career with that team.

In 20 seasons with the Lakers, Bryant was an 18-time NBA All-Star, a five-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, and he won the MVP award (for the regular season) in 2008. It’s not hard to see why a lot of fans see Bryant as one of the best basketball players in history.

On the court, Bryant lived by his own saying he called “The Mamba Mentality.” According to Bryant in an interview from 2017, The Mamba Mentality is what Bryant used to better himself throughout his career, to always push himself beyond his limits.

“The Mamba Mentality is a way of life,” Bryant said. “It’s the way you live, it’s just the simplest form in trying to get better at whatever it is that you’re doing.”

A moment I’ll never forget from Bryant happened April, 12, 2013 when the Lakers faced the Golden State Warriors. In the third quarter Bryant went down with a leg injury, and at first glance watching it on television it looked really serious as he was on the ground, holding his left leg and looking like he was in a lot of pain. 

Somehow though, Bryant played through the pain and started scoring more points to help his team to stay in the game. Later in the game, however, he fell down again and aggravated his leg injury even more and had to be taken out of the game. But before he left, he shot the two free throws he was given from the foul that was called when he fell down. He made both buckets. 

It was revealed after the game that Bryant tore his Achilles in that game, and to watch him play through that pain and still score 34 points total, including those last free throws was a moment I’ll never forget. That’s the Mamba Mentality he would always talk about; doing better today than yesterday at what you do and Bryant did exactly that in that game. 

When I first read the reports that Bryant died, I just didn’t want to believe it. I was reading it all over Twitter, looking at reports from news sites, then I turned on to the NBA Network and ESPN on television to see if they were talking about it and sure enough, there was the headline, “Kobe Bryant has died at age 41.”

Like he did with many other kids growing up and watching him play basketball, Bryant inspired me to never give up on life and always try to improve in the things I did. He wasn’t just a great player to watch on the basketball court but he was a role model as well.

By no means was he the perfect human being as Bryant did have his fair share of controversies on and off the court throughout his career. In late 2003, Bryant was under investigation for rape against a 19-year-old woman in Colorado. After a trial that lasted months, Bryant and the alleged victim agreed on a settlement in March 2005. While the terms of the settlement were not released to the public, according to the Los Angeles Times the settlement was estimated to be more than $2.5 million but there is no confirmation.

That rape allegation cast a shadow over Bryant’s career. People to this day, even after this death, still look at that case and despise Bryant and believe he committed the rape. But he tried to better himself despite all that hate and became a loving husband and father for his family, and still played his heart out in the sport that he loved. 

Bryant was an inspiration to a whole generation of kids, people in other countries, and had a lasting impact on our world as a whole. Watching people all around the world reacting in tears, paying tribute to him, and even just saying a prayer after his death was found out really shows just how much Bryant meant to society. 

Bryant will always be my favorite basketball player, he will always be one of the reasons as to why I wanted to become a sports journalist . He is a big reason why I love sports today, why I will continue to love sports even when I get older and I’m going to use the Mamba Mentality to get better as a journalist as my life moves forward. 

LeBron James said it best on Jan. 31 before the game started between the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers.

“In the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba out,’ but in the words of us, not forgotten.” James said.