KOBE PART I
I hate Kobe Bryant…well at least I used to dislike him. I know, I know, HATE, is a very strong word, so I guess I never “hated” Kobe, I just wasn’t his biggest fan. I think the real reason behind my lack of affinity for the Black Mamba is I could never relate to him. At the core of who I am is a pleaser, soft spoken, team player, pass first & shoot second mentality (on the court and off). Kobe stands for everything I’m not: demanding of others, ferocious, selfish – always shoot first, pass second. His camp even requested to be the highest paid player in the league regardless if his best years were behind him. Kobe is all about ego and being the alpha. On top of that, Kobe has a reputation for not being the best teammate (after 3 Championships, why did Shaq leave?). There’s a reason why no big-time free agents came to LA…it was all about Kobe and no one wanted to deal with him (i.e. the Dwight Howard experiment). I’m drawn to unselfish superstars like LeBron and Steph Curry…I relate to those guys. I connect with their team-first mentality and style of play.
But I must say, last Wednesday night I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the TV. Even though my guy Steph and his “Splash Brother” Klay (Wazzu in the house!) were playing to make history, going for the unprecedented 73rd win of the season…my channel was glued to ESPN 2 watching the Mamba. LA is a circus in general and the Staple Center had all the big names in attendance to watch Kobe’s final performance. Let’s just say he didn’t disappoint. Like most of America and several markets around the globe, I was mesmerized. Big time players, make big time plays, in big games. The elite of the elite, shine brightest when the most is at stake, when everyone is watching, and when the game (or for this instance) one’s legacy and last game is on the line.
Many can’t handle the pressure of being the man…being responsible to carry a franchise, living up to lofty expectations. Many crumble when the haters come out and criticism pours in. Many can’t handle the pressure and fail to fully satisfy when everyone is counting on you to deliver. Well folks, Kobe more than fulfilled his duty, he absolutely crushed it to mythical heights. Not only did he score 60 points (44% shooting off of an unbelievable 50 shots), he also hit the game winner with 30 seconds left and iced the game with 2 free throws. He was fearless, clutch, unfazed by the moment, and competed like only he could. My 6 pack of purple colored Hater-aid, turned into drinking the Kobe Kool-aid. This single performance turned me overnight…I couldn’t turn the TV and all the coverage off. I watched his post-game news conference not once but TWICE! My obsessive following of that moment reminded me of Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee stadium, where he ended his reign in the Bronx with a walk-off base hit. Hollywood just couldn’t have written this script. 60 points from a run-down 37 year old, who hadn’t topped 40 points in several years.
These are my take-aways from what I learned about Kobe that memorable night. I was looking at Kobe from the wrong perspective. I failed to see the “beauty in others.” I focused my attention on my perceived flaws of what makes Kobe, Kobe. Is he perfect, no. Is he polarizing, yes. He is a villain or hero? What I love about him is that he doesn’t care.
Kobe is able to do what I have always struggled with – not care what other people think.
Where I used to (and sometimes still do), let people’s opinion’s of me effect me. Kobe could give a %$#@. He uses the doubters and haters as fuel to win.
My depiction of the Mamba now is of a man who is fearless, a winner, unfazed by the moment, driven, ultra-focused, has elite mental toughness, has an extraordinary high pain threshold, a warrior, and one of the fiercest competitors to play professional sports. I am envious of all those things. I wish I had more Kobe Bryant in me. I loved how when asked during his press conference how he was able to take in all the festivities and fanfair…he said, “I stuck to my routine, and I focused on what I needed to do to win. I didn’t change my process for the moment.”
And that’s what I learned the most from Kobe. Kobe is an icon, and in the discussion for being one of the best ever…not for what he did when the lights where shining bright, but what he did when no one was watching and what was going on between his ears…his mental approach. Kobe’s work ethic, his commitment to improve himself every off-season, his mental and physical toughness to overcome multiple years of playing through injuries, and his obsession with winning. His positive mental self-talk…his unwavering belief in himself. Just like Jeter, Kobe did not change his process for any moment and that is why they are both legends. When times get tough, or when the pressure is on, we need to remember to stick with our process, our routine – mostly mental – less physical.
FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE PRESSURE.
This is where habits come into play. We need to prepare ourselves daily (through positive self-talk) to be ready for adversity, challenges, and obstacles. When you have a deadline to meet at work; when you are in a stressful situation at home; when you are in a state of crisis, we need to remember to focus on the task at hand, focus on the fundamentals, and what needs to get done, instead of what’s at stake or worse case scenarios. Kobe models the alternative…visualizing best case scenarios – visualizing successful outcomes. We need to believe that we have what it takes to overcome and succeed when these challenges strike. I love this mindset:
We can’t be afraid to fail. Like Kobe, we need to expect success and believe with all our heart that we have what it takes to win – no matter the situation. We might hit a few set backs, we might hear from a few haters, but we can learn from those moments and use those experiences as fuel to improve, and keep grinding toward our goal. I am now a Kobe fan and have learned so much for him from one magical night. He saved the best for last, something we all should strive to do. Its not how you start, its how you finish that counts. Thank you Kobe. #MambaOut
Check back in for my ode to Kobe Part II, as I draw comparisons between Kobe and a major PTPer (Prime Time Player) in the Bible.