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What I learnt from Kobe Bryant

Insight

There is no name more synonymous with the game of Basketball than Kobe Bryant.

Kobe died in a tragic helicopter accident in Calabasas in January 2020 alongside his daughter, Gigi, and six other passengers. He was a legend both on and off the basketball court and his legacy will undoubtedly continue to live on through the game. In the wake of his memorial, which took place at the Staples Centre on Monday morning (24 February 2020), I started thinking about the lessons that I’ve learnt from Kobe and how I apply them both as a basketball player and as a management consultant.

Tenacity

Kobe Bryant was the epitome of tenacity; he was well known for what he called his ‘mamba mentality’ which Bryant said was: “a constant quest to try to better today than you were yesterday". This is manifestly apparent from his many accolades including 5-time NBA Champion, 18-time NBA All-star and even winning an Academy Award.

Curiosity

His curiosity and learning mindset extended beyond basketball; he would regularly cold call celebrities and industry trailblazers like Oprah Winfrey, Mark Parker and Arianna Huffington to get tips on their success:

“Some of the questions I ask seem really, really simple and some of them seem stupid, quite honestly, for them. But if I don’t know, I don’t know. I have to ask. I’ll just do that and ask questions. I want to learn more about how they build their business and how they run their companies and how they see the world”.

Resilience

Lane4 defines resilience as the ability to bounce back from adversity and stay the path despite pressure. In his 20 NBA seasons as an LA Laker, Kobe never let the pressure get to him despite a number of potential career-ending injuries: he played multiple games with a broken finger, broken nose and even a broken knee. He embraced the pressure and believed that "Everything negative — pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise".

Leadership  

The part of Kobe that truly inspired me was his ability to be a great leader. When he started out in the NBA, he was well known for his arrogance, selfishness and fixed mindset, often failing to understand those he believed did not possess his ‘mamba mentality’. He said: "I can't relate to lazy people. We don't speak the same language. I don't understand you. I don't want to understand you.".

However, he eventually reached a point in his career where he had to stop being ‘just a player’ and start being a leader, which he symbolised by changing his shirt number from 8 to 24.

He threw his fixed mindset out the window and started to believe that the meaning of being your best self can vary from person to person. He said: “I varied my approach from player to player. I still challenged everyone and made them uncomfortable, I just did it in a way that was tailored to them. To learn what would work and for who, I started doing homework and watched how they behaved. I learned their histories and listened to what their goals were. I learned what made them feel secure and where their greatest doubts lay. Once I understood them, I could help bring the best out of them by touching the right nerve at the right time.”

Kobe taught me a lot and I look forward to inspiring others as Kobe did.

“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they do” – Kobe Bryant

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