clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What Kobe Bryant Can Teach Us About this 49ers Team and Ourselves

New, comments

Kobe Bryant left a lasting legacy that will continue to inspire the entire sports world for years to come, and a mindset that will inspire the 49ers on Super Bowl Sunday

Streeter Lecka/Getty

Kobe Bryant transcended the world of sports. He inspired those around him with his fiery competitive spirit & tenacious attitude. Kobe touched those same people with his humble demeanor & tremendous work-ethic. He galvanized a generation. He changed lives in more ways than he could’ve ever imagined. Kobe motivated us to be great and to be true to ourselves. No matter how hard you had to work, no matter how tired you got, if you believed that you could accomplish your dreams, you had a shot.

Kobe passed away on Sunday, along with daughter Gianna and seven others aboard a helicopter that tragically crashed in Calabasas, CA. Over the past two days, the entire world has shown their empathy & sorrow for the Lakers’ legend. He affected so many lives; people who weren’t Lakers fans, not even basketball fans. Aside from his greatness on the court, Kobe was just scratching the surface of his already illustrious post-NBA career, ready to inspire a whole new generation with his magnetic personality. That same personality once inspired a young 15-year-old boy to be something different - to follow his own dreams and never give up on them, no matter the circumstances.

Growing up in Southern California, you knew Kobe Bryant, whether you wanted to or not. He was everywhere. Anytime a classmate chucked a crumpled up piece of paper into the trash bin...Kobe! I never was the biggest NBA fan growing up, but couldn’t escape the noise. I followed the NFL religiously but never felt the same way about basketball. That all changed once Kobe teamed up with Pau Gasol in the late 2000s for the Lakers’ epic back to back championship runs. Yes, I technically missed the 3-peat bandwagon, but I digress.

I watched the Lakers during those years with my Dad & Grandpa. To this day, we still chat about our fond memories of watching Kobe’s greatness together. We would order pizza at Grandpa’s request - mom wasn’t always the biggest fan. My Grandpa has trouble remembering much of anything these days, but whenever he hears “Kobe,” you’ll catch a little twinkle in his eye of pure joy and admiration. Memories of watching Kobe Bryant are some of the only thoughts that can bring a smile to my Grandpa’s face to this day. I can sit here today and say that Kobe brought me that much closer to my family, and ultimately, to myself.

I never thought I’d be sitting here today, writing for you all at Niners Nation. I cherish this opportunity more than you all can imagine. I would never have dreamed it. I always thought my life would look like the rest of corporate America’s. Go to college, get a business degree, get a job, & retire well. The world teaches us to push your true passions aside to make room for the “plan.” Kobe Bryant didn’t believe in this “plan.” He exemplified a work ethic that I’d never seen before. He inspired me to know that I could be different, that I could go against the grain, and be successful. I just had to visualize it. Work for it. Never the most physically gifted athlete, he had to work for his success and envision his greatness. Dreams don’t just become a reality on their own.

Kobe Bryant on making those dreams into reality from Showtime’s “Muse”: “When you make a choice and say, ‘Come hell or high water, I am going to be this,’ then you should not be surprised when you are that. It should not be something that is intoxicating, or out of character because you have seen this moment for so long that ... when that moment comes, of course, it is here because it has been here the whole time because it has been [in your mind] the whole time.”

Nobody is handed success & dreams on a silver platter. They have to spend each and every day, each and every hour of their lives, visualizing what it takes to accomplish that goal and make that dream into a reality. It’s the Mamba Mentality. The 49ers exemplify this idea, from the top of the organization all the way down to each and every player on the roster.

The 49ers players come from the generation that got to watch Kobe play. Many were inspired in the same way that I was.

Richard Sherman cherished his friendship with Bryant off the field and derived his own Kobe inspiration for this Sunday’s matchup at Monday night’s media session: “He was a mentor. He meant a lot to this world. He had a positive impact, and there’s nothing that I can say that can quantify his impact on myself and others...He would tell me to stop being a baby and man up and play it and do it in his honor and win this game for him...And that’s what we’re going to try to do. We’re going to try to go out there and play some dominating ball, just like he wanted. The Mamba mentality lives on.”

George Kittle on what Kobe meant to him as a kid: “He was the reason I played sports. Just his mindset, you know, the ‘Mamba Mentality’...He was an icon; he was a hero of mine.”

This team is built on the Mamba Mentality. They mimic Kobe’s passion in every way imaginable. Every player knows that this team is family and that they’re all in this together. They’ve worked their tails off all year; listened to the doubters. Do you think that made them flinch? Maybe as much as Kobe flinched when Matt Barnes tried him with a ball fake back in 2010.

There’s a lesson that we can all take from Kobe Bryant, and one that our 49ers will take into the Super Bowl next Sunday night: hard work pays off. It’s been a long road for Kyle Shanahan & John Lynch. From the dark days of Reuben Foster & Aldon Smith to the Jimmy Garoppolo ACL injury, Shanahan and Lynch never wavered. Owner Jed York never batted an eye. They bet on themselves. They bet on the 49ers organization, the fans, and the culture. They bet on these players.

That bet is about to pay off in the biggest way possible. This week is about remembering Kobe Bryant. The best way to cherish a lost icon’s memory is to emulate their philosophy & passion. The Mamba Mentality moment is here for this 49ers team, and they will be up to the task, in Kobe’s honor.