Published just about a year and a half before his death, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, dives into Kobe's drive to succeed in the NBA. This book is not only timely, but is timeless, as Kobe stresses the importance of willing himself to succeed, making time for both his game and his family, and learning from the best players.
The short one-hour read opens up with testimonies from Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson, highlighting Kobe's strong character and personality. Jackson said that he frequently saw Kobe napping in his car before he even arrived at practice and he was always the first one there. "Kobe came into the NBA with a desire and talent to become one of the greatest players of all time," Jackson said.
Kobe describes his workout routine, in which he would sacrifice sleep so he could get in two workouts a day, but also made sure that he made time for family. "I wasn't willing to sacrifice my game, but I also wasn't willing to sacrifice my family time," he wrote. "So I decided to sacrifice sleep, and that was that."
There are parts about basketball that Kobe talks about that the ordinary fan doesn't think about much. He discusses at length about film study and how from a young age he devoured film and watched everything he could about the players. In one of the bullet points in the film section, he said, "I didn't train only my body - trained my mind too." He later discussed that he not only focused on other players, but watched film on what he could do to correct his own game. In a defensive play against Michael Jordan, he noticed that Michael's offensive stance was perfectly set, but he was leaning too far into him and made himself vulnerable to MJ's attack. He said that after he saw the picture of this, he made sure to correct his stance.
He talked about playing through sprains, his achilles injury, injured fingers. He said that when he injured his index finger, he had to retrain his shot to shoot off of his middle finger. This came as no surprise for someone who said that he learned to also do everything with his left hand growing up by brushing with his left, writing with his left, etc.
Perhaps the most addictive read from the personal narrative is that he gives accounts about how he approached playing against several different great players and his relationship to those players. He talked about Lamar Odom being the ultimate teammate - how he was charismatic, unselfish, and had a great sense of community. He spoke about Tim Duncan and the Spurs' strategy on defense, "The Spurs fool you into believing that there is going to be contact when you drive to the basket, then - poof - there isn't."
Inside basketball knowledge like that is more than interesting, it's inspiring to know that a guy looks at the game from so many different angles to will his team to victory. We may not forget that Kobe won five championships, but do we remember that he scored sixty points on his last day in a Lakers uniform? He said the crowd was somber that day, but he wanted it to be like a celebration. He closed the book by saying, "Yeah, basketball took me everywhere. Now, I'm taking the game everywhere." What a fitting tribute to a man who gave so much. He may be gone, but his legacy lives on.
In the acknowledgments, he dedicated the book to his wife, Vanessa and his three girls Natalia, Gianna, and Bianka. He said of Vanessa, "Thank you for your partnership, patience, and equally competitive spirit. You are my ultimate teammate." Of the girls, he wrote, "I hope you find the inspiration in this book to go build your own Mentality. Each of you, above all else, is my pride and joy."
It's almost as if he wrote his own eulogy. Rest in Peace Kobe and Gianna. Your spirit lives on.
For those interested in reading the book, this review does not give away the story. You will also find beautiful photos from Kobe's 20-year Lakers photographer Andrew D. Bernstein, which captures his personality and intensity. If you are a basketball fan or not, I think you will enjoy this. You can find the book here.