Channeling Kobe in 2018

This picture says it all — Kobe wanted every bucket and every dunk, he wanted to rip your heart out, he wanted to win badly, he wanted it all. After winning the 2009 finals to make it four championship rings, Kobe Bryant was not satisfied, he wanted more.

Now you might be wondering why you should care, well, I have a message for you.

But First, Who Am I and Why Am I Even Writing This?

My name is Tolu Alabi and I absolutely love basketball. I spend way too much time watching the NBA and reading Bleacher Report, ESPN.com, and all other basketball websites online (my top Google searches are literally “nba” and “cavs” and I won’t even get into how many times a day I enter them on Google).

Recently, I was thinking that I should probably share my love for the game with others instead of just have it pent up inside me. I also figured that with all the “docs” I have written in my short 4 month career as a Product Manager at Amazon, writing could be a great way to share my passion for basketball while also refining my writing skills for more Amazon docs in the future (win-win situation for all!). However I was held back by a loud voice in my head saying “what will you even write about, and don’t say basketball because people will think you’re weird”, “what if you actually write it but then no one reads it”, “what if people read it and absolutely disagree and hate it, or even worse, hate you”.

Wow! So many negative thoughts, but I have finally decided to ignore them all and write this article centered on my greatest passion — basketball. I use this first piece to honor Kobe Bryant and to urge you to join me in channeling him throughout 2018. Hopefully you take something from this post and hopefully it gives me more confidence to continue to write about basketball and why I love the game so much.

So Here We Go…

I’ll Start With My Message To You

It was December 18, 2017 as I watched Kobe’s jerseys go up the Rafters at Staples Center (The LA Lakers’ gym). I reflected on the first time I watched him play in the 2010 playoffs and then asked myself how I could channel the Mamba mentality into my life. Kobe defines the Mamba Mentality as:

“… it means to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself… it is a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday”.

There will be obstacles and challenges on the way to greatness, but the Mamba mentality can uplift you above them all

“everything negative — pressure, challenges, is all an opportunity for me to rise” — Kobe Bryant

Through his career, Kobe never backed down. He wanted to prove that he was better than every opponent, that he was better than every Laker ever, better than Michael Jordan, and even better than Kobe himself. There were moments Kobe was just a cold man because all he wanted was to win, but I want to urge us to look beyond the coldness, deep into his mind, and take something from his fierce motivation. Doing this on December 18, 2017, led me to ask myself,

“can you channel Kobe’s motivation and fierceness to be the best version of yourself in your own way? Can you put in the work, be relentless, and transform challenges to opportunities for you to rise? Maybe if you do, the result could be as sweet and fulfilling as this moment Kobe is having with his family in Staples Center right now”.

Yes. My answer is yes. I am willing to try to channel Kobe to be the best version of myself. At least if I fail, I know I tried to shoot for the moon, and who knows, I just might land among the stars. So today, I urge you for 2018, to tune out any distraction, be laser focused, and aim to be the best mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, friend, manager, engineer, artist, banker, musician, etc, you could be. We should all channel the Mamba Mentality, embrace the challenges on the way, and rise above all to be the best person we could possibly be.

Now A Little History on How I Found Kobe

My favorite player was and still is Lebron James, and this happened from the moment I watched “More than a Game” in 2009. The documentary touched my heart and really drew me to Lebron, his style of play, and his upbringing. I supported the Cavs like I was from Cleveland and not from Abuja Nigeria (my next article will be about my fondness for Lebron, for now let’s focus on Kobe).

Lebron after losing Game 6 to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 playoffs

My first NBA watching rodeo was the 2010 playoffs. My Cavs got eliminated by the Celtics but I wasn’t going to stop watching because Lebron was no longer playing. So I decided to support another team for the rest of the playoffs. Naturally I was absolutely wishing for the demise of the Celtics for the sadness they caused me and Lebron, so I looked West, found Kobe Bryant and decided the Lakers was going to be my team.

At this point I wasn’t aware of why Kobe was called the Black Mamba, I thought only one person was good enough to give himself a nickname. If you weren’t named Lebron it didn’t make sense for you to pick a nickname let alone call yourself the Black Mamba. I learned that Kobe won the championship and was named the MVP the previous year in 2009, so I worried that he and his team might not be as hungry. Plus Kobe was now 32 years old, perhaps father time would catch up, but again, I obviously did not really know who and what Kobe was.

I watched the rest of the playoffs wishing Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and the Celtics would lose, but despite all my prayers, the Celtics knocked off the Magic and were going to face the Lakers in the finals.

Getting to Know Kobe

Kobe walking off the court after losing Game 6 and the NBA Championship to the Boston Celtics

For Kobe, meeting the Celtics in the 2010 finals was a dream come true. Throughout his 20 year career, Kobe loved revenge, he always wanted to prove that he was better than you at every point. The Celtics showed him otherwise when they took the 2008 finals, but he had not forgotten. As Kobe says, “Every negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise”. He had gotten some redemption by winning the 2009 finals, but that was against the Orlando Magic. Now he was facing a familiar foe in the Celtics, it was his time for revenge, his ultimate opportunity to rise.

Throughout the series, despite the many flashy and fun plays, I was most captivated by Kobe’s eyes. My goodness. They were fierce, filled with rage and fire. He was an assassin and he was going to take down anyone and anything on his path to greatness.

I wondered how someone could act this way. Maybe basketball was indeed just a game. Maybe it was ok to take an L as long as you knew you laid it all out there. Well, watching Kobe changed my perspective. To him, this was not just a game, this was not just a series, and this was not just a season. This was an opportunity to be great, this was a chance to rip hearts out of their chest and remind everyone (because he’s known all along) that he was special.

Dagger after dagger after dagger, Kobe was relentless. Willing to take every shot, miss every shot, and make every shot all at the same time. Seven games and a broken finger later, Kobe got his wish, he got his redemption.

Through those finals, I wondered why Kobe was so motivated to win. Today I absolutely understand that there was an element of revenge but it was also something much bigger that drove him. One, Kobe had “only” four championships, he was chasing Jordan who had six. Two, two seasons ago, he lost to a renowned franchise headed by three sure hall of famers, and now that sweet revenge hummed in the horizon. Three and most importantly, he was Kobe, the Black Mamba, he was obsessed with winning and he wanted to solidify his place in history as the greatest Laker (yes especially above Shaq) and greatest player to ever lace them on.

Back To My Message To You

It’s 2018, no matter what you want to accomplish and what you wish for, know that there will be tons of challenges and distractions on the way. But remember the Mamba Mentality, you too can apply it in your own way. You can tune everything out and be laser focused on your goals like Kobe was.

For me, in 2018 — I will use every negative, every pressure, and every challenge as an opportunity to rise to the occasion and be the best version of Tolu there possibly could be.

Happy New Year friends! #TheYearofMambaMentality

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