By Dan Teano
Kobe Bryant, 2008 season MVP, four-time All Star MVP, and five-time championship winner, is now an Oscar winner as well. His short film, “Dear Basketball,” received the “best short film award” for this year. Interesting how Bryant did in one take what it took Leonardo DiCaprio 12 years to do.
If you haven’t seen “Dear Basketball,” I recommend you stop reading this and watch it now. It’s a captivating, child-friendly animation that tells the humble beginnings of the Lakers Hall-of-Famer. The film starts off with little Bryant rolling up his dad’s tube sock tossing it into his trashcan in the corner, pretending to hit the game winner. Eventually, the film unfolds to him actually scoring real buzzer beaters professionally.
The film’s simplicity is what makes it so moving. When you watch all four minutes of it, you realize that Bryant, in spite of all his accolades, is not much different than many of us. At six years old, he was a child with a dream, a passion, an undying fervor for one thing—basketball. He cared about the sport more than anything else, not because his dad forced him to follow his footsteps, but because he had a natural willingness and uncanny joy for the sport.
Most of us grow up passionate about one specific hobby. It might have been a creative pursuit like drawing, or an athletic endeavor like hockey, but somewhere between growing up and going to school, we lay our passions by the wayside. Bryant differs than 99 percent of all people in this regard: he never gave up on his passion. In the short film, there’s a 10 second scene of little Bryant dribbling between cones, panting between drills, and sweating profusely from pushing his physical limit. “Dear Basketball” was not just a biography of Bryant’s decorated sports career—if it was, it probably wouldn’t have won an Oscar. Rather, the short film was a reminder to everyone, children and adults alike, to believe in themselves and to work tirelessly on becoming the best at what they love doing the most.
In the end, Bryant’s endless hard work was a “thank you” to basketball “because that’s what you do for someone who makes you feel as alive as you made me feel,” Bryant said.
While Bryant had an iconic fade away jumper, unmatched footwork in the post, and unpredictable versatility, he’s most known for his work ethic. Throughout the years, Bryant’s coined the term “Mamba Mentality” to describe his fearless, competitive spirit.
Though Bryant’s 20 seasons has come to an end, the “Mamba Mentality” he exhibited and espoused will never die. After all, children will always have dreams and adults will always have people doubting their abilities. Thankfully, we have an example in Bryant of someone who was brave enough to follow their inner calling, no matter what it cost him in lost family time, sustained injuries, and bad shooting nights.
Bryant will go down as one of the greatest players to ever touch a basketball (just look at his resume). However, what makes him unforgettable is his “Mamba Mentality” which reminds us that, like Bryant, we’re great too. All we have to do is believe and work. Then again, most of us won’t. Then again, most of us won’t be the next Kobe Bryant in our field.