Kobe Bryant’s Nickname: Why Is NBA Star Called Mamba?

Black Mamba

Getty Many fans know Kobe Bryant as The Black Mamba.

Fans and players alike often referred to Kobe Bryant as The Black Mamba which has been shortened to simply Mamba in recent years. The meaning of Bryant’s Mamba nickname comes from an alter-ego that the legendary player created to try to give himself another edge on the basketball court. Bryant detailed the origins of The Black Mamba in a documentary entitled “Muse.”

“I had to separate myself,” Bryant said, per Business Insider. “It felt like there were so many things coming at once. It was just becoming very, very confusing. I had to organize things. So I created The Black Mamba.”

Bryant went on to explain his thought process behind creating the Mamba Mentality.

“It was just f— everyone,” Bryant explained. “I’m destroying everybody that steps on the court. I had all this pent up frustration that I just needed to let out. It was an avalanche, man. There was nothing that was going to get in the way. There was nothing that was going to stop me.”

After his retirement from the NBA, Bryant spoke to a number of different teams across various sports about developing the Mamba Mentality along with his leadership philosophy. Former NBA player Richard Jefferson noted on ESPN that the Mamba Mentality was a “singular focus to attack your goals.”

Bryant Noted That the Mamba Mentality Challenged Others to Be Uncomfortable

Bryant discussed this mentality in detail in his book The Mamba Mentality. The Players Tribune posted an excerpt from this book where he detailed how he challenged his teammates to step out of their comfort zone.

“I wouldn’t say my leadership style changed over the years,” Bryant noted, The Players’ Tribune. “I liked challenging people and making them uncomfortable. That’s what leads to introspection and that’s what leads to improvement. You could say I dared people to be their best selves. That approach never wavered. What I did adjust, though, was how 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.”

Bryant also discussed his conversation with LeBron James about developing this killer instinct. Bryant politely critiqued James when the two were teammates together on Team USA.

“I always aimed to kill the opposition,” Bryant said, per The Players’ Tribune. “The main thing LeBron and I discussed was what constitutes a killer mentality. He watched how I approached every single practice, and I constantly challenged him and the rest of the guys. I remember there was one half when we were messing around. I came into the locker room at half-time and asked the guys—in a less PG manner—what in the hell we were doing. In the second half, LeBron responded in a big way—he came out with a truly dominant mindset. And I’ve seen him lead that way ever since.”

Nick Saban Asked Bryant to Speak to the Alabama Football Team About the Mamba Mentality

One of the teams Bryant spoke with was the Alabama football team. Bryant was asked by Nick Saban to speak to the Crimson Tide about the Mamba Mentality back in 2018. The moment was captured as part of an ESPN docu-series on the Alabama football team.

“Then we had a speaker who said, ‘Sometimes your talent can be your nemesis because if you think you’re really good at something maybe you don’t have to grind, maybe think you don’t have to work as hard,’” Saban noted, per 247 Sports. “But we’re trying to get the young players who are talented to have the kind of effort, toughness, discipline to execute so that they have the kind of opportunity to be able to learn and contribute, which in a lot of cases we can really use, a lot of these young guys, if we can get them in position where they can have a role on the team.”

One speech that is sure to take on a new meaning since his death is Bryant’s words after his final NBA game. Bryant famously uttered “Mamba out” upon his retirement from the game.

“What can I say? Mamba out,” Bryant said, per Fox Sports.