My theory on why people loved Kobe Bryant
In the last few weeks we’ve all seen the tributes and the highlights from Kobe’s career, and we saw how he really bought into working with his kids on their passions after he retired. If you follow him on social media he was posting volleyball and basketball stuff with his kids all the time and it was really cool to see.
It got me thinking about what actually made him special, what made people really fall in love with his game, what did people admire about him and I think the thing it comes down to is people admired the integrity of his work ethic.
You could say whatever you wanted about Kobe, but you couldn’t question that he brought his best to every game and left it on the floor. There was no “load management” there were no rest days, there was no my pinky hurts days. In fact, there is that time in the playoffs with the Lakers that he went over to the trainer Gary Vitti with a dislocated pinky. Gary made him look away, popped it back into place and Kobe walked backed onto the court and kept playing.
Stories like that built the lore of Kobe. You didn’t buy tickets to go see Kobe and he took the night off. Same deal with Michael Jordan. You knew you got their best.
He then created the term Mamba Mentality to go along with it. In reality, it was a great marketing line but it really personified him as a player, and you could see it in his interviews and the way he played the game.
You got his best. Every day.
That’s one of the challenges I try to get through to kids I coach, and I find myself sometimes wavering with my own personal effort. Then I remember I owe the kids my best effort. I fall short often, sometimes life gets in the way, we all have excuses.
But the best players at the high school, college or pro level — the very best, the ones that separate themselves and stick out and make people tell stories about them — its because they bring it every day.
Its playoff time now in high school and coming up in college, and the games start to matter even more. The question remains the same though — who will make the big play like Kobe?
My answer is it will most likely be the player who put in the unwavering work ethic and time like he did and left it on the court every day. Sometimes perhaps for other people to see but mostly, deep down so that they could go to bed at night knowing that they couldn’t have done more or tried harder.
I remember Floyd Mayweather when he was fighting Oscar De La Hoya they did the first-ever HBO 24/7 show. He used to run in the middle of the night and the interviewer asked him why he was running so late. His response was "my opponents have all gone to sleep, to be the best you gotta work overtime."
I feel like Kobe lived his life the same way. To be the best you do indeed need to work overtime but there must also be integrity in your work. You give it your best every day, and that, in the end, will be what separates the great ones like Kobe from everyone else.