By Dillon K. Kaller

Editors Note: There was a stretch of time between when this article was submitted and when it is being posted. Kobe Bryant meant the world to millions of people and we believe that every story deserves to be shared.

Kobe Bean Bryant, where do I begin… As I write this, it’s a touch over 24 hours since Southern California’s and my, like millions, most beloved icon and his dear daughter, along with seven others, were taken from us all far too early.

This hellish nightmare of a reality that we are all living through at the moment seems so surreal and in many ways it is. Surreal almost beyond measure, the same feeling Kobe instilled in us shot after shot, game after game, night after night, year after year for twenty awe inspiring and most importantly, genuinely motivating and life altering years. He shaped an entire generation, he knew it and he had only just begun in life. Sitting here now as I recall my childhood and those twenty awestruck years of my life growing up in the greater Los Angeles/Orange County community, I can’t help but know that LA will never be the same.

 Kobe was, as we all know, so much more than an athlete, his impact on the world through countless individual accounts have shaped and has very much become the culture of Los Angeles, and Southern California as a whole, and that is so blatantly obvious now.

There are no known words which can appropriately describe the man that Kobe Bryant was and always will be. Legend, icon, role model, competitor, work ethic, commitment, dedication, passion, desire, tenacity, ambition, will power, compassion, love, heart and I can go on endlessly but no single word or combination thereof will ever truly describe the man, Kobe Bean Bryant. He was the absolute epitome of all of these things and so much more.

Perhaps the best way to describe him are in his own words, and only two of them at that, Mamba Mentality.

Those two words, Mamba Mentality, are his legacy and gift to us all. Kobe has always personified and lived through the mamba mentality, from his days at Lower Merion High School to now, he just finally came around to affixing a name to it in 2016 to help the rest of us out.

He didn’t need to name it but we needed him to, to give us something to call this competitive beast, this unrelenting force of nature that taught us through his very being to always pursue the best in yourself no matter who you are or what you’re doing. And that was just it, Kobe’s very definition of the Mamba Mentality is a simple  but powerful one,

“To sum up what Mamba Mentality is, it means to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself… That is what the mentality is. It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday.”

It is this very mentality of being in constant pursuit of excellence within yourself no matter who you are and what you are doing, to always work at becoming just a little bit better than the day before, every day.

This mindset for life that Kobe exuded throughout his entire life is what has reverberated around the world with his passing and now defines the culture here in Los Angeles. From lawyers to mechanics, doctors to teachers, blue collar or white, your profession, your ethnicity, orientation, religion, age, etc., none of that mattered. The mamba mentality is indiscriminate, you either choose to actively pursue the best within yourself with whatever it is you’re doing or you don’t, there is no in between.

Simply look to the expectations for professional athletes and their teams here, the fanbase usually gets labeled as fair weather, or that it doesn’t’ support its teams when they’re down. That’s not true, it’s not that the fans don’t care about their teams, it’s the complete opposite and Kobe set the standard.

In the down years of Kobe’s career, the Staples Center and any building the Lakers were playing in was still largely a sell out. That’s solely because the entire Lakers fan base and world at large knew that no matter what, Kobe Bryant was out working every single soul in the NBA and his commitment to excellence and winning no matter the cost was an inspiration to all. If Kobe Bryant was showing up, so were we.

So now when not only athletes but coaches and front office personnel alike arrive to the professional sports scene in southern California, they are well aware that an absolute commitment to excellence and winning is the only accepted approach. Because not only will their stadiums be empty but their tenure here will be a short one as well.

This culture and mindset created and instilled by Kobe has permeated throughout society and touched millions of people all over the world from every imaginable walk of life. It has shaped a generation not only on the basketball court but in most every corner of the world and will help enable this generation to further inspire the next with Kobe’s legacy, mamba mentality.

That’s what we’re all left to do now, live each day with mamba mentality and through all of our individual efforts we will carry on his mission in inspiring the next generations to come. Basketball was never the purpose, it was just his platform to illustrate it best. I will end these thoughts with some more words from the legendary man himself Kobe Bean Bryant;

“You have to dance beautifully in the box that you are comfortable dancing in… Your box is different than mine, everybody has their own. It’s your job to try to perfect it and make it as beautiful of a canvas as you can make it. And if you have done that, you have lived a successful life, you have lived with Mamba Mentality.”

So with heavy hearts but heads held high, let us all go find our box to dance in and leave behind the most beautiful canvas we possibly can. Mamba forever.

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