The tragic accident that took the life of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others caused many NBA fans to reflect on the superstar’s career. He was always a larger-than-life figure in the basketball world. But this became even more apparent when Bryant took on the “Black Mamba” persona that defined him in the final decade of his NBA career.
Why is Kobe Bryant’s nickname ‘Black Mamba’?
Kobe Bryant’s nickname has roots in Quentin Tarantino’s kung-fu epic Kill Bill. The Black Mamba was a fierce assassin named after a species of snake. Upon researching that black mambas are agile and aggressive creatures, Bryant knew he had a nickname.
This not only came in the aftermath of his feud with Shaquille O’Neal and the departure of Phil Jackson but also his sexual assault case in Eagle Colorado. In 2014, Bryant sat down with The New Yorker to discuss his mindset as he tried to rebrand himself.
“After the Colorado incident, I had every major sponsor drop me, except for Nike,” Bryant said. “So I’m sitting there thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’ My vision was to build a brand and do all these things … Now everybody’s telling me I can’t do it … The name just evokes such a negative emotion. I said, ‘If I create this alter ego, so now when I play this is what’s coming out of your mouth.'”
With his reputation at an all-time low, this persona, which Bryant compared to his version of Marvel superhero the Incredible Hulk, aided Bryant for the rest of his NBA career. The Mamba Mentality was born.
What was the ‘Mamba Mentality’?
Bryant eventually got his sponsorships back. While the Black Mamba persona may have been equal parts PR and branding, the moniker stuck. Kobe had a new number, new nickname, and new era where he was the unquestioned leader of the Los Angeles Lakers. No. 8 was gone, and 24 was in.
The Mamba Mentality was what people brought up when they discussed his ferocious work ethic and endless supply of energy. Whether Bryant was dropping 81 against the Raptors or leading his team over Phoenix in the playoffs, the Black Mamba could be seen every time Bryant did his thing.
Did the ‘Black Mamba’ persona work?
Bryant was as polarizing on the court as he was off of it. For every fan who thought he was the greatest thing since Michael Jordan, another person saw Bryant as an overrated, selfish player. His play was equally polarizing at times, but it also shaped his legend. His game-winners became a staple of his Mamba persona, while the misses were lost in space.
Some saw the persona as a negative, as Bryant tended to try too hard to take over games and occasionally got under the skin of teammates. Just as he could strike at opponents with his Black Mamba venom, he could also do so within his locker room.
Bryant’s legacy will always be secure as one of the greatest to ever play the game. His relentless attitude and ferocity made his snake-influenced nickname the perfect title.
As people come to grips with how to look back on his legacy, it is undeniable that the Black Mamba is a major part of his career. While Bryant may be gone, the Mamba Mentality will always live on through memories, stories, and basketball camps.
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