Commentary: Heartbroken, yet finding comfort in Mamba Mentality living on through so many others

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I don’t mention it often, because having been in Seattle 13 years, this is my sports town. But when I think about my youth, I think about one franchise – and the various players that led that team to six championships before I’d graduated from college.

Kobe Bryant was one of those players.

As you’ve seen by now, Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash in my hometown. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna was killed as well, along with seven others. They were on their way to a basketball practice, as Bryant continued life after professional basketball as a loving father of four daughters, the youngest of whom was just born in the last year.

Upon hearing the news, we all reacted the same way: With shock, disbelief, sadness and heartbreak. For me, it was an instantaneous blur of iconic memories.

There was his NBA debut as an 18-year-old and the excitement in the voice of legendary announcer Chick Hearn. The alley-oop pass to Shaquille O’Neal in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals and the subsequent celebration when they won a title. I remember where I was when Kobe put up 81 points in 2006. And when he scored 60 in the final game of his career.

Unfortunately, I’ll remember this day too - the day I spent staring at a TV in a haze, occasionally comprehending a perspective or two from those who knew Kobe best.

But there’s a comfort in seeing the widespread agreement on the impact and legacy Kobe Bryant leaves behind – not only as a legend and ambassador of the sport of basketball, but as a father, a friend, a mentor, a role model and as a man who made mistakes but ultimately learned from them to become a better human being.

There’s a comfort knowing that Kobe’s “Mamba Mentality” will continue to live on in so many people in different walks of life. It’s a mentality he described as a combination of five key emotions – from honesty and detachment, to optimism, passion and fearlessness. But one that ultimately guides its followers to persevere through hard work, imposing your will, and making others around you better too.

It’s a mentality that Pete Carroll introduced to the Seahawks in 2018, giving a copy of Bryant’s book to each of his players during the season – a way of thinking that Tyler Lockett discussed with me later that year:

“Kobe always talks about preparation whenever you understand the Mamba Mentality,” Lockett said. “So when it came to preparation, you’d practice these throws every single day so that one play, when the ball is up in the air, no matter what time there is on the clock, you already practiced that. The preparation is done. Now you just go out there and do what you’ve been doing your entire life. It doesn’t change that it’s the fourth quarter or the last play of the game. Every moment is the same – that’s how you have to treat it.”

That mentality will also live on in Storm guard, Jewell Loyd, who looked up to Kobe growing up, and then became friends with the legend for the past five years.

“I pretty much talk to Kobe once or twice a month,” Loyd told me. “I ask him questions about the game or how to beat a certain defense or just about life, really, I just text him and he responds back.”

Kobe Bryant touched so many people. It pains me to think about all the lives that could’ve been impacted by this person in the years to come.

In the words of local NBA star Jamal Crawford: “Whatever it was you did – football, basketball, soccer, acting, whatever, Kobe inspired you to be better.”

Frankly, my biggest nightmare is of me reporting a completely erroneous story. But I can’t imagine a greater feeling of relief than to wake up tomorrow morning, finding out what we’ve reported tonight was completely untrue.

RIP Kobe.

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