‘Mamba Mentality’: A Legacy Beyond Basketball

Ryan Berhar avatar

by Ryan Berhar |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Rare Disease Day

Anyone who knows me knows that sports are my favorite thing in the world. Although football is my most beloved sport, basketball has a more personal element to it. For starters, you can see the players more clearly, as they’re not covered with armor like in football. It’s also highly individualized. It’s still a team sport, but one player has tremendous influence over the outcome of a game. It’s a sport that celebrates its players above all.

Few athletes have made a connection to the world like Kobe Bryant. The long-time Los Angeles Lakers’ star and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning. As someone who watched probably thousands of his games, the news hit hard. I spent much of the day reading and watching the tributes. I’ve never seen anything like it. He inspired countless people, not just to play basketball, but also to be better people.

At the risk of this reading like a sports blog, I won’t delve into his career achievements. I’ll just say the list is long. Yet, what I always admired most about Bryant was not his transcendent talent, but rather his “Mamba Mentality.” Bryant described the idea like this: “To sum up what Mamba Mentality is, it means to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself.”

Mamba Mentality resonated with me even as a child. As someone with SMA, I’ve had more than my share of struggles, and there have been times when I felt like giving up. During these times, Mamba Mentality has been a source of inspiration to me. Through sickness and weakness, it reminded me to keep going.

Two examples that pop into my mind are my spinal fusion and my battle with metabolic acidosis, which put me in a coma. Both of these challenges required mamba-level fortitude to come out the other side. Seeing Bryant overcome setbacks like a tear of his Achilles tendon — one of the worst injuries that an athlete can sustain — and proceed to make two free throws, motivates me to fight through whatever I’m dealing with.

My favorite quote from Kobe is, “Everything negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise.” That is the message, at least in part, that I’ve strived to deliver through my column over the past couple of years. SMA is a brutal burden to carry, but it also gives us the chance to rise up and be an inspiration to others.

Bryant’s contributions to the game of basketball are immeasurable, yet his legacy extends far beyond the court. I will do my best to help the Mamba Mentality live on. May the “Black Mamba” rest in peace.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.