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Summary: The Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant

The Mamba Mentality (2018) is Kobe Bryant’s personal take on basketball, his life, and his career. It provides details on how he physically and mentally prepared for the game, the depth with which he analyzed his opponents, and how basketball taught him to lead and grow.

Introduction: Develop a Mamba Mentality.

Seventeen-year-old Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996. He was then quickly traded to the Los Angeles Lakers five days later as part of a prearranged deal. A few months later, at the age of 18 years and 72 days, he became the youngest player ever to play in an NBA game. Kobe continued to play for the Lakers for the rest of his 20-year career. Over that period, he became known by a nickname he’d bestowed upon himself: the Black Mamba.

When Kobe started using #MambaMentality on Twitter, it was just for fun. He hoped it would be memorable too. But he soon realized it meant much more than that.

The Mamba Mentality encompasses a mindset that doesn’t focus solely on achieving a goal. Instead, it looks at the whole process of getting there – the journey – to the extent that it becomes, as Kobe himself said, “a way of life.”

In November 2015, Kobe announced that he would retire at the end of the season. In his final game against the Utah Jazz in April 2016, he scored 60 points. Twenty-three of those were in the fourth quarter, giving the Lakers a five-point win.

In 2020, Kobe tragically died along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, six family friends, and the pilot when their helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in heavy fog, just 30 miles from the center of Los Angeles. But his legacy continues to live on.

In this summary to Kobe Bryant’s The Mamba Mentality, we’ll look at how the NBA’s third-highest scorer of all time prepared himself both mentally and physically for his games. We’ll also see how he studied his opponents and mastered his craft, worked through his injuries, and led his team to victory.

Book Summary: The Mamba Mentality - How I Play


Even when he was a kid, Kobe wanted to be the best. He didn’t need outside motivators; he had an intrinsic desire to improve himself. He also showed no fear. So, if he wanted to incorporate a new move into his game, he wouldn’t hesitate – even if that meant looking inept or feeling embarrassed. The important thing was to try. And when he got it right? Well, that was another skill in his pocket.

Kobe’s physical training regime was the stuff legends are made of. During the main part of his basketball career, he was lifting weights for 90 minutes, four times per week. And when he said lifting, he meant “heavy, hard, can’t-feel-your-arms” lifting!

Early in his career, he understood that time management was key – both to balance his basketball life as well as his family life. If he started his first gym session at 5:00 a.m. he’d manage to get in three sessions every day, but still always be there when the kids got up and again at night to put them to bed. He didn’t want to sacrifice any time with his family or his game – so he gave up his sleep instead.

When it came to prematch preparation, Kobe listened to his body and varied his routine depending on what he felt he needed to do. Sometimes that would mean shooting jumpers; other times it would mean meditation or stretching. And if he felt he needed rest, it was a good indication he should take a power nap.

It’s important to prepare mentally before a game, too. Kobe’s advice? Again, listen to how you’re feeling. You need to get your head in the right place. So, when Kobe needed to be keyed up for a game, he’d listen to energizing music. If he needed to feel soothed, it had to be the music he used to listen to on the school bus when he was a kid. And when he needed to be calm, he wouldn’t listen to any music at all.

Kobe also trained his mind regularly by reading, practicing, working, and focusing totally on his day-to-day tasks. By doing so, he found that his mind wandered less and he was more present in each moment.

He believed that cultivating relationships is essential for preparation. We all need mentors we can look up to. In Kobe’s case, this meant basketball greats like Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jerry West.

Kobe’s curiosity and passion meant he’d ask questions regardless of who he was with. Sometimes he was ignored, but it didn’t bother him – he was eager to learn from those willing to share their knowledge. Kobe relished talking to Magic Johnson, for example. It was always a special opportunity to pick his brain and learn from one of the game’s greats.

Over the years, Kobe faced many opponents. He studied them all in detail before playing against them. In the next section, we’ll take a look at some of these players and how Kobe adapted his game specifically when playing against them.

Knowing your competition

Kobe studied a lot of game videos of his opponents. He never wanted to step out onto a court not knowing who he was facing. So this was a big part of his preparation.

For example, when it came to Allen Iverson he learned that he needed to get the timing right. Allen would begin his attack somewhere between the ten-minute and the eight-minute mark. Kobe studied his attack patterns and did everything he could to throw him off his game during those periods – including bumping him and denying him the ball. When Allen was in a passive phase, Kobe would allow him to catch the ball. This would make Allen more assertive, but as a result, he’d fall right into the Laker’s trap defense – and Allen would just get more and more frustrated. Kobe learned that when Allen had the ball, he needed to “jam” him up and stop him from gaining momentum and scoring.

With players like Carmelo Anthony, on the other hand, it all came down to positioning. He’d check the angle of a pass and work out where Carmelo could throw the ball next. He’d use his left arm to discourage that. He’d then use his right hand – which was out of sight – to “clamp down” on Carmelo’s arm. When a pass came, that would allow Kobe to steal the ball.

Kobe observed that Chris Paul played best when he was going to the right, even if he could also go left. So Kobe would use his left hand as defense to let Chris know that if he tried to go right, he’d be able to steal the ball. Kobe also had a height and arm reach advantage. This meant he was able to cut off Chris’s angles and contest any shot he went for.

But he didn’t just study his opponents – he also studied himself. By doing so, he was able to change his own game so that it had “no holes.” He made it very difficult for other players to defend him, even if they’d played with or against him for years. He analyzed his own game and turned his weaknesses and flaws into strengths.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Kobe made a point of developing relationships with the referees. There was mutual respect between him and many of them. So when he talked back to the ref or had a problem with another player, he found that his words held more weight. He knew the job of a referee was difficult and often underestimated, so he made a point of always treating referees well. He has no doubt that this helped him throughout his career.

Reading the referee’s handbook enabled him to understand their role and limitations, too. For instance, he realized that due to their positioning during play, there would be what he called “dead zones” – areas in which the referees couldn’t see certain things. In those areas, Kobe could get away with minor rules violations such as holds and travels.

In the next section, we’ll take a look at Kobe’s coping mechanisms in the face of injury.

Persistence and adaptation

It’s Game 2 of the 2000 NBA finals, and Kobe has just sprained his ankle – badly. He plays on in spite of the injury, adapting his game, figuring out how he can maintain control and continue dominating. He misses the next game but then plays the rest of the series, helping the Lakers secure the championship.

After the series, Kobe looked for something that might help strengthen his ankle. He found it in an unlikely activity for a basketball player: tap dancing. He hired a dance instructor and worked on his ankle, not only building up strength but also improving his footwork. The work he put in that summer helped him for the remainder of his basketball career.

Although Kobe suffered many injuries throughout his 20-season career, he never complained nor doubted his abilities. Instead, he always stayed positive and thought about what he could do to get his fitness back to 100 percent. And if an injury happened midgame, he’d ask himself if it was just painful – or if it would get worse through the game. If it was only painful, he’d deal with it every time and play on, adjusting his game accordingly.

But in 2013, in a game against the Warriors, Kobe suffered an injury that meant he had to come off the court. In fact, he’d even need surgery – he’d torn his Achilles tendon. At the time, there was talk as to whether he’d even be able to recover from that well enough to play again. But, after undergoing a new surgical procedure the very next day, he was determined not to let the injury finish his career. In his own words, he decided he “had to climb that mountain.”

Earlier in his career, when he injured his finger in the 2009–2010 season, Kobe had to adapt his shooting technique. Before the injury, he used to shoot off his first two fingers. He had to change that to use only his middle finger. It took practice and hard work – both physical and mental – with Kobe making 1,000 shots per day. Did the change in technique affect his shooting performance? Kobe couldn’t really tell. In the end, what mattered was that he still went on to win another championship.

Kobe’s injuries demonstrate that when he had setbacks, he believed he first needed to examine the extent of the problem and then adapt accordingly. And on the road to recovery, he sought out innovative solutions or adapted his style of play to eliminate the weakness his injury had caused.

In the next and final section, we’ll look at how Kobe led his team to greatness.


Kobe was an inspirational leader to his team. His style of leadership might have made them feel uncomfortable at times, but that led to introspection and then to improvement – he “dared people to be their best selves.”

He adapted his approach for each person on his team, observing how they played, what their history was, and what they wanted to achieve. He even found out where they had doubts and insecurities. With that knowledge under his belt, he could work with each player to bring out their best self.

Kobe was first put in charge of the triangle offense by Tex Winter at the start of the Lakers’ first championship run. He might have been young, but he was the team leader. As a result of his youth, the more experienced team members sometimes complained, but Kobe didn’t let that bother him. He’d been put in charge by the great Tex Winter, after all. And soon, his teammates fell into place. All it took was for them to understand Kobe’s motivation and what he wanted to do with the team.

Later in his career, Kobe was particularly tough on three of his younger teammates: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance, Jr. But a few years later, he could see that his motivational style had really paid off; they’d taken his guidance and teachings to heart. When Jordan joined the Cleveland Cavaliers, he even wore Kobe’s jersey number.

As the leader of the team, Kobe often had to size up against the leader of the opposing team – like Kevin Garnett, for instance. This long-armed athlete commanded a large part of the court. Sometimes Kobe got the upper hand, and other times Kevin did. But Kobe never backed down from the challenge.

Kobe had joined the Lakers at the tender age of 17. But because he worked so hard and was dedicated to getting the Lakers back to its championship-winning ways, he was quickly accepted. He truly felt that the Lakers were a family, and that he had been welcomed as part of that family from day one.


Nowadays, it isn’t just elite college or NBA players who find the Mamba Mentality mindset inspiring – CEOs of Fortune 500 companies also embrace it. Whenever someone used #MambaMentality, Kobe believed it to be very significant. For him, it made the sweat and hard work and his 3:00 a.m. wakeups worthwhile. In fact, it’s why he wrote The Mamba Mentality in the first place. He wanted others to learn lessons that could be applied to both basketball and life.

Choosing to adopt a Mamba Mentality mindset is up to you. Whether it’s to excel at basketball, business, or your life in general, the ball is firmly in your court.


I have read the book [The Mamba Mentality: How I Play] by [Kobe Bryant] and I will provide you with a brief review of it.

The Mamba Mentality: How I Play is a memoir by Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The book is a collection of personal reflections, insights, and anecdotes that reveal Bryant’s philosophy and approach to the game, as well as his life and career. The book is divided into two parts: Process and Craft.

In the first part, Process, Bryant shares his mindset and preparation for playing basketball at the highest level. He explains how he developed his passion, work ethic, discipline, and resilience to overcome challenges and achieve his goals. He also describes his relationship with his coaches, teammates, opponents, and fans, and how he learned from them and inspired them. He reveals his famously detailed and meticulous method of studying the game, analyzing his strengths and weaknesses, scouting his rivals, and devising strategies to win. He also discusses how he dealt with injuries, setbacks, failures, and critics, and how he maintained his motivation and confidence throughout his career.

In the second part, Craft, Bryant showcases his skills and techniques on the court. He illustrates how he mastered various aspects of the game, such as shooting, dribbling, passing, defending, rebounding, and scoring. He also demonstrates how he adapted his game to different situations, opponents, and roles. He provides examples of specific plays, moves, shots, and moments that illustrate his creativity, intelligence, and versatility as a player. He also pays tribute to some of the legends and icons of the game that influenced him and shaped his style.

The book is enriched by stunning photographs by Andrew D. Bernstein, the official photographer of the NBA. The photos capture Bryant’s intensity, emotion, and beauty as a player in action. They also complement Bryant’s words and provide a visual representation of his concepts and ideas. The book also features an introduction by Phil Jackson, Bryant’s former coach and mentor; a foreword by Pau Gasol, Bryant’s former teammate and friend; and an afterword by Kobe himself.

The Mamba Mentality: How I Play is a fascinating and insightful book that offers a rare glimpse into the mind of one of the most intelligent, analytical, and creative basketball players ever. It is a fitting legacy from the late Los Angeles Laker superstar who left an indelible mark on the sport and the world. The book is not only a valuable resource for basketball fans, players, coaches, and students who want to learn from Bryant’s experience and wisdom; but also a source of inspiration for anyone who wants to pursue their dreams with passion, dedication, and excellence.

My feedback on this book is that it is a well-written and engaging book that reflects Bryant’s personality and voice. It is clear that he poured his heart and soul into this book to share his knowledge and understanding of the game with others. It is also evident that he loved the game deeply and respected it profoundly. The book is not only informative but also entertaining; it contains many stories, anecdotes, jokes, and quotes that make it enjoyable to read. The book is also honest and authentic; it does not shy away from addressing Bryant’s flaws, mistakes, controversies, or regrets. It shows both his strengths and weaknesses as a player and as a person.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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