WINDHOEK - The black mamba, known as one of the most dangerous creatures on the planet, is the second longest poisonous snake after the king cobra and remains an extremely venomous snake in Africa.
The black mamba’s venom is primarily composed of neurotoxins that often induce symptoms within ten minutes, and is frequently fatal unless anti-venom is rapidly administered.
But just as the mamba snake is highly feared for its skittish behaviour, speed and threatening unpredictability, these are the exact characteristics that inspired departed National Basketball Association (NBA) star and global sports icon Kobe Bryant, who went on to adopt the moniker “Black Mamba”.
In a 2015 interview with Ahmad Rashad, Bryant said of the animal that inspired the name, “When I step on that court, I become that. I am that killer snake. I’m stone cold, man.”
Later, Nike partnered with Bryant and the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club to launch a youth basketball league called, the Mamba League, to give hundreds of kids free access to the sport.
Bryant later created the Mamba Sports Academy to provide broader athletic and lifestyle training to competitors at all levels in a number of sports. He was on his way to a Mamba Sports Academy game last Sunday when Bryant, one of his daughters, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash.
When Kobe entered the NBA at the tender age of 18, coming straight out of high school, he was the youngest player ever to make it to the big stage. He was an inspiration to every young basketball player, regardless of whether you supported his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, or not.
Anyone who watched Kobe play could immediately see that the 6-foot-7-inch (over 2 metres) guard had been blessed with an incredible God-given talent.
The way he moved, his impressive footwork, his speed combined with his incredible jumping and shooting abilities soon confirmed him as a graceful and unstoppable force.
As Kobe matured within the NBA, his opponents quickly realised the immense talent within their midst and when the Black Mamba stepped on the court, he instilled fear in even the worthiest of adversaries.
Even NBA players who did not like Kobe had to respect the Black Mamba because, much like the snake itself, he could quickly turn onto you to attack and at any given night could easily drop 60 points on your whole team without provocation.
Before he retired in 2016 after 20 years in the NBA, Kobe had amassed numerous accolades including five NBA titles (2000-2002, 2009, 2010), two NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (2009–2010), NBA MVP (2008), 18-time NBA All-Star appearances and four NBA All-Star Game MVP (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011). He even won an Academy Award in 2018 for an animated short film.
However, despite his immense talent, Kobe had throughout his career earned a reputation as one of the hardest working athletes in the NBA, if not in all of sports, to hone his skills and perfect his craft.
Kobe was known to be the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. In a recent interview, he explained the amount of dedication and work he put into his craft.
“I train so much every day that by the time my opponents realise this and try to catch up it will be impossible because I will already be four or five years ahead of them,” said Kobe.
Kobe played for the LA Lakers for all of his basketball career but he garnered die-hard fans all over the world, even here in Namibia.
Local basketball fanatic, Alexander Mwenyo, a Windhoek-based LA Laker fan since 2000 said: “Kobe had an unbelievable work ethic. I think that’s what really stands out, seeing him going to win five championships was written in the stars. What was most captivating in my eyes was him showing the world that you could do anything you desire if you put work into it. This was perfectly encapsulated by him writing the short-animated film “Dear Basketball” #MambaOut!”
Namibia’s former basketball player, Nico Willemse, also paid tribute to the American basketball legend, saying: “I would say, after Michael Jordan, Kobe was a great motivation to basketballers here in Namibia. During our heyday at Unam all of us tried to emulate him (Kobe), his hard work, finesse, fitness and even his personality. He was a great athlete, inspiring community members around the globe and a wonderful dad to his kids and family. RIP Kobe.”
Retired Namibian basketballer Tuhafeni Hilukilua equally joined the world in mourning Kobe, saying there is everything to be admired about the late Kobe and his legacy.
“Kobe took his idol Michael Jordan’s style of playing and added his own twist. This resulted in a unique style of play that will be impossible to fully mimic. He combined this with an incredible work ethic to become one of the greatest basketball players ever. As a youngster, he was quite ‘cocky’ as most stars are. This is a quality which is often needed to excel in one’s field of expertise. But, as a father and as a husband in his later years, he was to be admired. He made time for his kids and it is sad that we are losing yet another great example of black excellence,” said an emotional Hilukilua. Kobe (41), his daughter, Gianna, and seven others perished last Sunday morning in a devastating helicopter crash in Calabasas, California while on their way to the Mamba Sport Academy. He is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri and both his parents.
Kobe, thank you for what you have given us and what you have showed us both on and off the court. We will always remember you. #MambaOut!
2020-01-31 09:07:49 | 23 days ago