INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The sports world is still reeling from Sunday’s news of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, and as coaches and athletes process what it means to them personally, they’re back at class or hard at work on the court, trying to use that “Mamba Mentality.”
Young basketball players growing up as part of the Bryant generation include some college upper classmen. At “The Jungle” on the IUPUI campus, the Jaguars were hard at work, still a bit stunned by yesterday’s tragic news. Kobe had a profound effect on a handful of them, both on and off the court.
“Kobe was one of my favorite players,” said junior Marcus Burk, a Franklin Central graduate. “I remember trying to study his game and translate it into mine and just seeing how he was as a person. He had a really good work ethic. He was always trying to get better, get in the gym. He had that ‘Mamba Mentality’ that everyone talks about, and that’s what I try to replicate in my life, not only in basketball.”
Burk’s teammate Grant Weatherford from Hamilton Heights high had his own take.
“The way that he approached every day, whether it was competing or a workout or off the court, life in general,” said Weatherford. “He was a ferocious competitor with a ferocious mindset.”
Bryant stormed onto the national scene in the year 2000 when the Lakers met the Pacers in the NBA Finals.
Mark Montieth, who covered the Pacers for the Indianapolis Star, said Bryant made his mark.
“Kobe was 21 years old,” said Montieth. “He was second team all-NBA that year, but really that playoff series and specifically game four was his first moment on the stage.”
“He missed game three with a sprained ankle. Game four goes overtime. Shaquille O’Neal fouls out. Kobe scored 28 points that night, 22 after halftime and eight in the overtime. He won that game for the Lakers, and we found out how good Kobe was going to be.”
Montieth added Bryant adjusted to the mentality that he was every team’s enemy, embraced it, and took it to another level in his farewell season of 2016.