By: Jason Gandhi
The words that could motivate the 10-year-old like nothing else. Those two words drove him further than any person he had ever met. That kid was me.
Kobe Bryant was my idol. I stayed up countless nights as a little kid, past my bedtime, just to get a glimpse of what he did that night. I didn’t know I loved basketball until he left the game. I knew I loved Kobe, but I thought that was it. Kobe made me fall in love with the game.
When I was younger, it was all about trying to replicate his every move. I was never into legos or those kinds of things. My toy was the “Mamba Mentality”. I would go outside and work on the infamous turnaround jumper from the elbow or reenact the game-winning shot Kobe hit the night before. It was what I loved.
The obsession didn’t end with his moves on the floor. Kobe influenced my life off the floor. I bought eleven of his jerseys, from high school to Christmas games, and had countless shirts and shorts of Kobe apparel. I could not get enough of it. I went to every game for the past 5 years when Kobe came to Indy and idolized him right behind the bench every single time.
But, I grew up. I realized 5’10”, skinny and average talent doesn’t get you to the NBA. But that didn’t stop the love of basketball. I turned the mentality from trying to master Kobe’s moves to try to pick his brain and WHY he made the move he made, as he was one of the smartest people I have ever seen. I listened to every postgame press conference, every interview, just to try and understand a glimpse of what the Mamba Mentality was.
I continued to watch every game and study. But then “Dear Basketball” came out. I remember sitting on my couch shocked that Kobe was finally calling it quits. This season would be the last time I could watch my idol take the floor. When he came to Indiana, that was the best game I have ever been to. The atmosphere and the way Kobe willed his team back in the game one last time in person left me starstruck. He threw me his water bottle that night, and I use that as a symbol to go forward. I have it on my desk to push me along with that “Mamba Mentality”.
On Mamba Day, April 13th, 2016, it was the final time. I was up until 4:24 AM that night. It was the perfect culmination. It was just like my childhood days. Staying up past my bedtime… to get a glimpse of what he did that night.
Kobe Bryant pushed me and will continue to push me to wherever my life takes me. He has no idea the impact he had, and since we have never had a conversation, he never will know. But, I didn’t have to meet him… it was the way he carried himself and how I was shaped because of it.
It was and always will be the Mamba Mentality.