7 Mental Game Lessons from Kobe

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Kobe Bryant is on the Mount Rushmore of basketball players. While his physical talent was immense, he credited his ability to train his mind just as hard as his body  as a big catalyst to his nearly 2 decade dominance in basketball.

He chronicled his mindset & approaches to his wholistic craft in a book to explain his definition of his “Mamba Mentality”

Here are 7 lessons on Kobe’s inner game that made him a champion:

#1 The Mamba Mentality

Kobe was a winner. Won 5 NBA championships, 2 gold medals, NBA MVP & 2020 Hall of Fame inductee. He even won an Academy Award for his short animated film “Dear Basketball.”

The Mamba Mentality, however, wasn’t centered on winning. It’s a mindset to perform at your best and what you do to be your best in everything you do.

“The mindset isn’t about seeking a result, it’s about the process of getting to that result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life. I do think that it’s important, in all endeavors, to have that mindset.”

#2 Change Your Routine; Not Your Approach 

Kobe entered the NBA from high school as a teenage phenom. Even then, though, he used an intelligent approach to his preparation that included routines.

The younger Kobe was all about explosiveness. As he aged with basketball mileage & injuries, his routines became about preventing & mitigating injuries to keep him at his best.

“The only aspect that you can’t change is that obsession. You have to enter every activity, every single time, with a want and need to do it to the best of your ability.”

#3 Kill the Opposition

When you’re the best, sometimes you can afford to take moments off and still be in position to win the game. However, Kobe believed in “killing the opposition.” To him, that simply meant to always challenge himself and his team to play at their best.

He experienced this while on Team USA playing internationally with other NBA all-stars. “There was a time one half when we were messing around. I came into the locker room and asked the guys…what the hell we were doing. In the second half, LeBron (James) responded in a big way,  he came out with a truly dominant mindset.”

#4 Pre-Game Mental Prep to Tap Into a Specific Performance State

He always mentally prepped for each game. Part of that was making sure he was in an elite emotional state prior to the games.

Because our emotions are always fluctuating and different situations call for a different emotional state, Kobe would change the specifics of his routine to put him into a desired state.

“Some games require more intensity, so I would need to get my character & mind in an animated zone. Other games, I needed calm. I wouldn’t listen to music.

The key is being aware of how you’re feeling and how you need to be feeling.”

#5 The Peace & Calm of an Empty Arena

He would arrive at the arena before anyone else. He said that being there, alone, provided a feeling of peace before he would play the game later that night. In the calm environment, he could let his imagination prepare him for the game.

“It’s just me and the basket, the court and my imagination, dreams. [Later] When I jogged out of the tunnel and the fans were screaming, the noise didn’t impact me. Mentally, I was able to remember the stillness of the earlier moment and carry that with me.”

#6 Get Into Your Zone

Some players would listen to music, sign, dance prior to games to get themselves into a mental & emotional state to play. Kobe would oftentimes opt for sitting in silence to himself to allow the sights & sounds of the environment to flow through him.

“Sometimes, even when I had headphones on, there wasn’t any music playing. It was a feint to keep people away, and get into my zone. For the most part, I just liked being there, hearing the sounds of the environment and observing everything.”

# 7 Use Ever Environmental Cue to Your Advantage 

Before every game spanning just about all sports – especially team sports – the same thing happens before each game. The national anthem is played. It’s part of every pregame routine: run onto the court/field for a quick warm-up, return to the team bench, play the national anthem, introduce starters, play ball.

Kobe used it all to work for him. During the relative stillness of the 1:30-2:00 song, He would use it as a time of meditative awareness. He was aware of his teammates around him, the baskets, objections around him, the ambient noises of the area.

He wanted the energy of the environment to flow through him. It’s something he’d done since he was a kid playing. His coach Phil Jackson, who emphasized the mental game, amplified the impact of his practice.

“When Phil Jackson came… I started to understand the importance of my personalized meditative process. From then on, I placed an increased emphasis on it.”

The inner game, working from the inside-out, is the most effective way to get the most out of yourself and to get the results you want. Consider what tactic or approach Kobe used that you can incorporate into your routines.