I grew up and lived my entire childhood with three brothers who watched basketball religiously. I was never quite a fan of the game, but rarely did I have a problem watching Michael Jordan soar and leap across the basketball court to score a win for his team. In fact, most nights, he left me on the edge of my seat, wondering how he could stay in the air for so long to make a jump shot.
Fast forward fifteen years later, a seventeen-year-old point guard from Philly named Kobe Bean Bryant burst onto the scene with a similar edge, as much grit, and as intense a work-ethic as Jordan. Witnessing these two battle on the basketball court toward the end of MJ’s career was memorable and worth seeing.
For seventeen years, I watched Kobe, a/k/a “Black Mamba” become the youngest player in the league’s history to reach 30,000 career points, five NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, and all-time leading scorer in Lakers’ franchise history surpassing his mentor and Hall of Famer Jerry West. Kobe never ceased to amaze me with his signature fadeaway shot that now has millions of people petitioning for it to become immortalized as the new symbol of the NBA.
When confirmed news reports flashed that Kobe and his beautiful daughter Gianna and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash, I was as devastated as everyone else. His untimely death had prompted sports peers and fans to reflect on life and how important it is to make each day count — something Kobe lived by. While we had a hint of what was to come of his post-retirement life, it was quite evident, he was already exceeding expectations. Kobe had penned books and scored an Academy Award for an animated short film that he had written. The same ferocity and competitiveness he had in the NBA perpetuated into his work in the business world.
In 2013, Kobe co-founded a venture capital fund with businessman Jeff Stibel called Bryant Stibel & Co and invested in tech, athletics, and media ventures that helped upsurge his assets to nearly two billion dollars. He carved out a post-retirement legacy that could easily serve as a successful blueprint for incoming players, particularly young men and women of color, who may not relate to a Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffet, but can identify more with Kobe. He was masterful at branding. Entering the league at a young age, Kobe set his sights on building his brand and landed a lucrative four-year $40 million dollar deal with Nike and other endorsements at just twenty-four years of age. His relationship with Nike blossomed and through their partnership, birthed the Mamba League Kids Basketball Program in 2016.
Kobe’s undeniable passion for not settling for mediocrity was unmatched and is something everyone can learn from by channeling their inner Mamba. “You’re going, you’re competing, you’re not worried about the end results. That’s what Mamba Mentality truly is,” said Kobe. While he was taken away from us at the mere age of forty-one-years, one thing for sure is that his accomplishments both on and off the court, and his dedication to his businesses and philanthropic work will forever live on.
Olivia Almagro is a business adjunct professor and public relations consultant and principal owner of O+Media Group, LLC. www.oplusmediagroup.com