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The Genius of Kobe Bryant

September 14, 2021
AUTHOR: COLIN TAUFER

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There are 24 notable attributes present in those individuals who have earned the title of ‘genius’.

One prominent figure in our time who exemplified those characteristics has cemented himself as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

That man is Kobe Bryant.

Whether it was an off-season workout, the final minute of a championship game, or the development of a new project, Kobe Bryant drove himself and others to be the best and succeed at the highest levels.

His brilliance on and off the court was a product of his legendary drive to succeed.

“I had a constant craving, a yearning, to improve and be the best. I never needed any external forces to motivate me.”

But more than just an unrelenting drive, Kobe exemplified all the characteristics we find in the greatest among us. In his book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, he reveals the genius behind his excellence.

As a basketball player, Kobe achieved athletic greatness as both an individual and a teammate. Among many honors, he was a five-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Beyond basketball, his achievements were equally stellar.  

 He was honest with himself and willing to learn from his mistakes and remove imperfections. “I built my game to have no holes,” he said. “What separates great players from all-time great players is their ability to self-assess, diagnose weaknesses, and turn those flaws into strengths.”

Mediocrity was something Kobe did not tolerate in himself or others. His sense of perfectionism was ever-present.

“If you really want to be great at something, you have to truly care about it. If you want to be great in a particular area, you have to obsess over it. A lot of people say they want to be great, but they’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness.” 

To help others turn flaws into strengths and achieve greatness, Kobe co-founded the Mamba Sports Academy, a full-service facility for athletes young and old “that activates, educates, and provides an opportunity for humans to unlock their full potential.”

Kobe knew that pushing for greatness required learning and mastering new skills. This meant developing his knowledge through the pages of books and the wisdom of others.

“By reading, by paying attention in class, and in practice, by working, I strengthened my ability to be present and not have a wandering mind. Just as important as reading was cultivating relationships with greats who’d come before me…Those guys taught me the lessons that gave me an edge over my competition.” 

It was important to Kobe that others never went to sleep at night without having learned something new each day. In 2013, he launched his own multi-media studio that develops films, TV shows, and novels, all with the purpose of telling sports stories that entertain and inspire.

The chance to gain knowledge can happen at any time, and Kobe understood and took advantage of every relationship with an insatiable curiosity.

“I asked a ton of questions. I was curious. I wanted to improve, learn, and fill my head with the history of the game. No matter who I was with — a coach, hall of famer, teammate — and no matter the situation — game, practice, vacation — I would fire away with question after question. A lot of people appreciated my curiosity and passion. They appreciated that I wasn’t just asking to ask, I was genuinely thirsty to hear their answers and glean new info.”

As a coach of his daughter’s basketball team, Kobe motivated his players to get ahead by teaching them, as he said, “what it means to pursue excellence and the commitment level that comes with that. At the same time, making things fun and challenging, and learning new things.”

His dynamic energy propelled him beyond his limits to make things happen.

“I didn’t need that extra push to be great…I was willing to do way more than anyone else. That was the fun part for me.” 

He perceived the energy of the moment and gained an almost transcendental insight.

 “I’m trying to feel the energy of the environment. I made every second of the national anthem count. During those precious moments, I’m hearing all the little sounds and imbibing the energy of the arena. I’m taking the opportunity to be aware of what’s going on, to be aware of the teammates around me, the basket in front of me, the basket behind me, all the other sounds and objects. It’s a full concentration and understanding of the arena. In essence, I’m trying to feel the energy of the environment and allow it to move through me. That then propels me and fuels me to have a great performance.”

More than just physical greatness was Kobe’s ability to use his imagination to see beyond the game.

“I always liked the peace and calm of the arena before everyone else got there. It’s just me and the basket, the court and my imagination, dreams. There’s something about being in a big arena when no one else is there. It gives me a sense of nirvana and also prepares me for the game.”

Every athlete’s career comes to an end. For most, this means an announcement, a farewell tour, and accolades from admirers. True to his genius, Kobe’s retirement was punctuated by the winning of an Oscar. In November 2015, he announced his retirement with a poetic and sentimental letter he wrote to the world titled Dear Basketball. He turned this letter into a beautifully animated and imaginative movie that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018.

Such was the genius of Kobe Bryant. A superstar, champion, hero, and world-class athlete. Someone we admire, whose greatest gift is the inspiration to awaken the genius that lies within each of us: our drive, imagination, curiosity, devotion to goals — all of the twenty-four natural and inborn characteristics that geniuses — and you and me — have in common.

Kobe Bryant’s genius was his innate ability to create extraordinary things for himself and others.

That same genius lies within you. Use yours and strive to achieve great things, not just for yourself but for the betterment of mankind.

Author: Colin Taufer

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