GREAT FALLS — Three years ago on Jan. 26, a tragic helicopter crash in southern California resulted in the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi Bryant, and seven others that were riding along with them.
Bryant left us with a ton of great memories from his hall of fame basketball career, but he also left us with his legendary Mamba Mentality. Great Falls athletes and coaches have taken Bryant’s mamba ways and made them into their own version of a mentality to help them succeed.
Great Falls CMR girls basketball assistant coach Kareem Jamar is a former Montana Grizzlies standout and a Los Angeles native who is appreciative for the time he got to spend watching Bryant play before heading to the outdoor courts and trying to imitate his moves. But it was about more than just trying to knock down his infamous fadeaway jumper because Bryant inspired others to work harder and be better.
“It’s about what you make it and the work you put in,” said Jamar. “The whole message is hard work and never giving up. One percent every single day and that’s the Mamba Mentality.”
For Great Falls High athlete Mason Kralj, Bryant was an inspiration whether it was on or off the court. Kralj takes the Mamba Mentality with him on the court, to the weight room, the football field, and even the classroom. The mentality to Kralj is about outworking everyone in all aspects of life.
“He inspired me in everything he does. Just the way he carried himself with his confidence and the preparation that he put in,” said Kralj. “How he talks about preparation is what builds his confidence and I think that’s the coolest thing ever.”
Bryant was a huge advocate for women’s basketball — a true fan of the game. He always spoke highly of female athletes and did a great job of helping to elevate the platform of women’s hoops. For Bison athlete Abigail Macdonald, that meant a lot to her and made her want to go harder every time she stepped out onto the court.
“The fact that he wanted people to watch women’s basketball and be open to women’s basketball around the world,” said Macdonald. “He was trying to change the world and he was trying to help everyone, and it was really cool that he wanted to see women’s basketball be more.”
University of Providence women's basketball coach Bill Himmelberg was able to meet Bryant and learn from him first hand at a coaches clinic.
"The big thing he talked about was play at your own pace and play within yourself," said Himmelberg. "Just how he talked and coached and how hard he got his players to play. I was really impressed by that and its something I've taken away. I try to get our girls to play that hard all the time, like its your last time in the gym."
Kobe Bryant was a legend, and legends never die because they always find a way to inspire.