The late Kobe Bryant was one of basketball’s greatest players and mind, a naturally gifted individual who maximized his talents to the greatest degree. What truly allowed him to be the incredible athlete and competitor he was though, was his mentality, the famous Mamba mentality that so many since him have tried to adapt for themselves. Very few things could keep Kobe away from the game of basketball, and injuries couldn’t always manage it either.
Bryant once revealed to Ahmad Rashad that he had played through a torn rotator cuff for several years, crediting his extremely high pain tolerance for being able to manage that. In 2015, with his arm in a sling, Bryant appeared in an interview where he explained that despite being temporarily incapacitated, he would still back himself as the best basketball player in the world.
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Kobe: « Best in the game? As far as what? »
Interviewer: « Far as balling. »
Kobe: « As far as balling? Man, that’s a silly question, because you I’m not going to say anybody other than me. Though my arm’s in a sling. »
Bryant was as good as his word, even taking shots with his left hand when he was facing issues with his right shoulder. An excerpt from his aforementioned interview with Ahmad Rashad can provide further insight into Kobe’s thought process.
“I tore my rotator cuff. The funny thing about it is I’ve been playing with it, I guess, torn for a long time,” Bryant said. “I just never actually got an MRI on it because the strength, even now, the strength in my shoulder is good. It’s fine. I can shoot, but I just keep tearing it more and more and more. So I’ve had this pain for a long time, and it’s just I’ve never actually gotten looked at because the strength was so good.”
The legacy that Kobe Bryant left behind is one of putting in whatever it takes to be the best version of yourself. While load management has increasingly become a thing during the regular season in recent times, it’s important to remember and appreciate the players that played through the pain barrier to give the fans a show. While his scoring ability and highlight-reel plays will always be associated with Kobe, it’s how he overcame adversity that will likely stay the longest in the minds of NBA fans.