Rams adopt, thrive with the ‘Mamba Mentality’

(News4usonline) – Kobe Bryant has meant a lot of things to a lot of people. For 20 years as the rock star shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe became the face of LA. The daring scowl. The spectacular plays. The walk-off game-winning jump shots. The five NBA championships.

And yet there was more to the man than playing basketball. He was an Academy Award winner. His philanthropy and the giving of his time are legendary. He was a Hall of Famer on and off the court. Whatever Kobe Bean Bryant did he did it with zeal. He was measured. He was relentless. He was unafraid to step out of his comfort zone to get better.

He took whatever steps he needed to do to get to the next level. But making it to that next level required pushing himself beyond what he thought he was capable of. That meant to be a better teammate, to be a better basketball player, to be a better everything, he had to go beyond the physical realm to attain any of his lofty goals.

Kobe understood this well. Mastering this mental thing would require all of his mind, body, and spirit. That’s the “Mamba Mentality.” Los Angeles Rams linebacker Von MIller knows all about this. As his team prepares to play the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship with a Super Bowl trip on the line, Miller, during a Zoom conference call with reporters, shed some light on how much his approach to the game of football changed after reading Kobe’s literary work, “Mamba Mentality: How I Play.”

January 9, 2022. Los Angeles Rams linebacker Von Miller (40) has his eyes on a possible sack of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10). Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“I am definitely more appreciative of my craft,” Miller said. “You know after Kobe passed, which today is the two-year anniversary. After I read his book…I watched all of his documentaries as well. After I watched it, I had realized I wasn’t doing all that I possibly could to be the best. You know, I wasn’t…I thought I was, I thought I was coming in, I was working hard in the offseason, but I wasn’t committing all of me to the game.”

Miller continued, “You know, I’d go play football, but after seeing the way Kobe did it and you see what came from it, I realized I wasn’t doing what Kobe was doing to be the best. Whenever he passed; I watched his documentaries and I read his book, I had a whole new appreciation for what I have, man. I was grateful for my opportunity to play this game, and I realized I have to do more. I have to commit 24/7. I said earlier that this has been my life, but I had to turn it up a notch 24/7.”

The life and legacy of Kobe have left sparks of motivation for millions of people. Bryant’s famous mantra mindset aka the Black Mamba has been a source of inspiration to a global audience. 

Throughout his prolific NBA career, Kobe made the impossible look easy. He made all of those wow moments on the basketball court look so routine it was as if he could just do the things he did rolling out of bed. 

That would be a false narrative. All five of the NBA titles that he won, being a two-time Olympian, earning his keep as an 18-time All-Star, and making good as an NBA Finals MVP twice didn’t just happen because Kobe made a wish and magically wanted them to happen. 

Kobe had to put in the work. Then he worked harder. He wanted to be the best. And to be the best, you go beyond the sacrifices others are willing to make. It was the work that Kobe put in that allowed the former NBA megastar to drop 60 points against the Utah Jazz in the final game of his storied career. 

Kobe was not about making excuses. He was about elevation and competing. If you were going to compete against him, then you’d have better bring your lunch pail and dinner plates with you. As a competitor, Kobe was about as fierce as they come. 

Kobe Bryant
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant receives a warm retirement send-off from the STAPLES Center crowd on April 6, 2016. Bryant and the Lakers played the Clippers in a road game. Bryant would officially close out his 20-year career with a 60-point game against the Utah Jazz a week later. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

That ferocity dissipated on Jan. 26, 2020, when Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people perished in a helicopter crash just outside of Los Angeles. It was a devastating moment in time for Angelenos and the rest of the world. Two years after Kobe’s passing, the pain of losing the mercurial ambassador still hurts.

His legacy is still here, though. Kobe’s competitive drive is not just something that Miller has adopted, but the Rams as a team integrated into their practices in 2020.

“It actually started when he passed,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “There’s so many players and coaches that just admired the way that he carried himself and what he was as a competitor. (I) actually, kind of talked about it with (Chargers Head Coach Brandon) Staley – when he was here – and (I) think implementing those competitive periods where things get ramped up a little bit where you just pick and choose your spots.”

“Once you get later on in the year, you can’t go full speed all the time,” McVay added. “But when you do get a chance to kind of sharpen one another, we felt like that was a good opportunity. And we do those ‘Mamba’ periods throughout the course of training camp and earlier on and then we have one a week. It’s a good way to kind of just ramp up the competitiveness and heightened sense of urgency and awareness that we’re looking for on Thursdays – which usually ends up being our heaviest work day of the week.”

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who was No. 1 in the NFL during the regular season in receptions, yards receiving, and receiving touchdowns, said he enjoys participating in the team’s Mamba “periods.”

January, 9, 2022. Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) coming out of the tunnel at SoFi Stadium. Kupp says he enjoys the team's Mamba "periods." Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline
January, 9, 2022. Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) coming out of the tunnel at SoFi Stadium. Kupp says he enjoys the team’s Mamba “periods.” Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“Man, I love them,” Kupp said. “You know, you get the opportunity to go against Jalen Ramsey, against Darious Williams, against the guys we’ve got in the back end. Then we’ve got [Eric] Weddle in here, too. Any time you’ve got an opportunity to go against some really good football players…I really think that Jalen is the best DB [defensive back] in this league. So, to be able to go against him, the opportunities to compete against each other throughout the entire course of the year, that’s an invaluable opportunity. And I don’t take those likely. Everyone here is competitive. We all want to win.”

When it comes to winning and having that competitive spirit, Miller is of the same mindset. Since being traded to the Rams from the Denver Broncos, Miller has played like there is no tomorrow, picking up 9. 5 sacks during the season and adding a couple more quarterback takedowns in the postseason. After missing the 2020 season due to an ankle injury, Miller has brought his A-game since joining the Rams.

Miller gives Kobe and having that “Mamba Mentality” an assist for helping him navigate through his dark period and putting him on track to finish off his career. Hopefully, that ends up with the Rams playing and then winning Super Bowl LVI.

“In 2020, there was no offseason for me,” Miller said. “I just grinded, and grinded, and grinded. And I ended [up] getting injured at the beginning of training camp. But it was Kobe and him going through his Achilles [injury] that really pushed me through my injury.”

Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay walks out of the tunnel at SoFi Stadium before his team’s regular season finale against the San Francisco 49ers on January 9, 2022. McVay and the Rams incorporated the Mamba “periods” into their practices as a way to honor the late Kobe Bryant. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline