The NBA Finals are set to start this week, with the Golden State Warriors trying to win their third championship in four years. For LeBron James, it’s his last chance for a title before he retires.
Michael Jordan was competing like it was the finals.
Kobe Bryant made an indelible impact on every NBA player who had the good fortune to meet him. That’s particularly true for Russell Westbrook is a basketball player who plays for the Oklahoma, who grew up cheering for Bryant as a young Los Angeles Lakers fan before becoming close friends with him.
After being crushed in a pick-up game when Westbrook first met Bryant as a UCLA student, he learnt a vital lesson about the Mamba Mentality.
Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant had a unique connection.
Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder defends Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant | Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Bryant has always been a hero to Westbrook because of his competitive spirit and unwavering will to win. Westbrook began watching Lakers games as a kid growing up just outside of Los Angeles and soon chose to style his own game after Kobe’s.
Years later, Westbrook made it to the NBA and spent eight seasons competing against his boyhood hero. During that time, the two became good friends, and they even discussed Westbrook joining the Lakers in the future.
Now, the longtime Los Angeles Dodgers fan will be able to don the famous purple and gold uniform himself.
“Things that we spoke about, me and him, just the possibility of me becoming a Laker and knowing what that means,” Westbrook stated during his Lakers’ debut news conference this summer. “It’s insane to think about, and I’ll be thinking about it every time I put on that Lakers jersey.”
In a casual pick-up game, Kobe crushed Westbrook to give him a lesson about the Mamba Mentality.
Westbrook will never forget his first encounter with Bryant. It was back when Kobe was a UCLA student, and he didn’t have it easy on him.
During a recent visit on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the new Laker recounted the tale.
“A lot of pick-up games would happen at UCLA going into my second season, and a lot of superstars would come.” But then Kobe showed here, and now I’m extremely pumped and energized,” Westbrook added. “I’m simply looking forward to competing because Kobe was always the greatest in the world to me.” I got the chance to compete, and Kobe and I didn’t go back and forth because he was essentially murdering me, but it’s all right.”
Westbrook may have been humiliated that day, but he learned a crucial lesson that influenced how he handled basketball in the future.
The No. 1 thing I learned from him was that when I was younger and watched him, he was competing as if it were the Finals, which I believe we all know as the Mamba Mentality. And that was so inspirational to me because it taught me that regardless of where you are, what you’re doing, or how you’re performing, you need to be like this. And I decided to run with that mentality.
He went ahead and did it.
Westbrook carries on the Mamba Mentality.
There are a lot of people that dislike Westbrook. He’s not the most efficient shooter, and he makes some dubious choices when the stakes are high.
But there’s one element of Westbrook’s game that you can’t doubt: his heart.
Every time the great point guard takes the floor, you know he’ll give it his all. Westbrook’s calling cards as an NBA player have become hustle plays, fierce defense, and intense competition, and he wouldn’t be that way if it weren’t for Kobe.
Although there will never be another player like Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook fully exemplifies the Mamba Mentality.
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Michael Jordan was an amazing basketball player. He was able to compete at the highest level of play, even when he was older. Reference: michael jordan finals opponents.
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