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Mamba Mentality inspires in lockdown

I’d wanted to read this book for quite a while. Unfortunately I just couldn’t seem to get my hands on a copy in South Africa. For the longest time, only the German language version seemed be available on Kindle, and I honestly didn’t have the time or wherewithal to learn a new language. However, following the untimely and tragic death of NBA legend, Kobe Bryant (although the hardcopy was still virtually impossible to find) an English language version became available on Kindle. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to give it a read.

Kobe Bryant’s book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play offers little by way of biographical detail outside of that in the context of his basketball career. Instead the book centres predominantly on two clear focuses, “Process” and “Craft”, as he presents an in-depth look at the behind-the-scenes work. The book paints a picture of his “insightful style of playing the game” and demonstrating what the ‘Mamba Mentality’ philosophy looks like in action.

Kobe tells us that the Mamba Mentality mind-set “isn’t about seeking a result – it’s more about the process of getting to that result. It’s about the journey and the approach.” As you journey through the pages of his book, you see quite clearly both how that process takes form, and the level of physical and mental effort that went into becoming the incredible player that he was. The narrative acquaints the reader with the shrewd determination and extreme competitiveness that defined who he was as a player, characteristics often associate with NBA greats like Michael Jordan. He has carefully chosen which games to write about in order to purposeful demonstrate his process. Paired with the anecdotes and detailed technical descriptions of the mechanics he employed in play are a selection of stunning descriptive images to support the narrative, photographs all taken by none other than the Lakers official photographer, Andrew D Bernstein.

In the book, Kobe places great emphasis on the importance of preparation, something strongly notable in his approach to his workouts, practice and training, and in just how much he studied the game and his opponents through video study and research off the court. Kobe was always playing the long game, perfecting both his strengths and weakness, and as such his career speaks for itself. He offers analysis of his teammates, opponents and coaches. You see how he approached injury, worked on he’s recovery and adapted his game in order to still perform at his best.

“What separates great players from all-time great players is their ability to self-assess, diagnose weaknesses, and turn those flaws into strengths,” Kobe wrote.

Concise and to the point, the book is a quick read, easily devoured within a few hours. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a fascinating and insightful contribution. The Mamba Mentality: How I Play is an education for basketball enthusiasts and young players who would like a better understanding of the inner workings of Kobe’s style of play, which does well in living up to the hope that his words would “inspire a young girl or boy to achieve future greatness.” For hardcore fans who are well acquainted with the game and Kobe’s career there is little that you don’t already know, though the book still makes for good reading, especially now at a time where there is little happening in the world of basketball. Although there are many great books written about players, there is something unique about reading from the perspective of the player themself and seeing the game through their eyes. At an uncertain time where the world is starved of live sport, many of us are searching for ways to fill the vacuum that its absence has left, this book is definitely a welcome distraction.

Written by Jojo Matongo

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