Kobe Bryant: Discipline and the Path to Greatness

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Mamba Mentality" by Kobe Bryant. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is Kobe Bryant’s discipline theory in The Mamba Mentality? Why does Kobe Bryant believe discipline is so important?

For Kobe Bryant, discipline is a core part of his Mamba Mentality philosophy. All success, in sports and in life, begins with being disciplined and planning your path.

Read more about Kobe Bryant, discipline, and the Mamba Mentality.

Kobe Bryant on Discipline 

This book pairs brief reflections and commentaries written by Kobe Bryant alongside iconic photos from the Los Angeles Lakers’ official photographer Andrew D. Bernstein to offer a view inside the mind and career of one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history. Kobe was drafted into the league from high school, and he spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers. During that time, Kobe became a leader on his team and in the league, and he was admired for his unrelenting drive and commitment to becoming the best basketball player he could be. That, in essence, was the Mamba Mentality and the ideas of Kobe Bryant on discipline.

(Shortform note: Kobe dubbed himself the Black Mamba after facing sexual assault charges in 2003. The charges were eventually dropped, but the incident still caused backlash and hurt Kobe’s reputation. In order to cope, Kobe created this nickname—inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 movie Kill Bill—to separate his personal life from his alter ego on the court.)

There is no single definition of the Mamba Mentality. At first, Kobe just thought it was a catchy play off of his Black Mamba nickname. But, over time, it came to represent a mindset that encompasses hard work, obsessive preparedness, and dogged persistence on the journey to achieving a goal. The Mamba Mentality transcends basketball—it applies to anyone who is striving to achieve greatness in her field. For Kobe Bryant, discipline is the first step.

Train to Master Basic and Advanced Skills

Kobe was strategic about improving his skills in every aspect of the game—and that started with fundamentals. Many other players neglected the fundamentals, to the extent that Kobe’s focus on the basics actually gave him an edge over his competitors. While other players practiced dribbling tricks like crossovers, Kobe worked on making his footwork efficient. With the right footwork, Kobe could get where he needed to go on the court quickly while conserving energy. Additionally, as long as his feet were pointed in the direction he was going, Kobe could turn his head and upper body in a different direction to fool his defenders. 

Part of the Kobe Bryant discipline theory is to constantly work on improving. In his endless effort to enhance his game, Kobe was never intimidated or discouraged when he noticed areas where he could improve—rather, he welcomed the challenge. In the fifth game of the semifinal series at the end of his rookie season, Kobe shot four airballs that killed the team’s chance of advancing. Despite the disappointment, he never worried that his missed shots would ruin his career. Kobe was confident that he was destined to be an NBA great—he just needed to put in the work to get there. Kobe determined that he’d missed those shots because his legs were spent after a long season, so he started a weight training program to strengthen his arms and legs, and he came back stronger for his second season. 

As far as the views of Kobe Bryant on discipline, he was dedicated to improvement. He also made a point of having a versatile, well-rounded set of skills. As a child, Kobe wanted his left hand to be as strong and agile as his right, so he practiced writing his name with his left hand. As he got older, he took the same approach with dribbling—he was just as strong at dribbling with his left hand as he was with his right. Similarly, he practiced shooting and passing from all distances in a variety of conditions. Kobe Bryant’s discipline paid off. His versatility had two primary benefits: 

  1. When Kobe faced opponents who had researched his strengths and tendencies, he was able to catch them off-guard by switching up his direction and his pace.
  2. When he had to play through injuries, he could adjust his playing style (for example, by playing with his left hand) and still have a strong game. 

Kobe trained with a focus on staying in control. In other words, Kobe worked to avoid letting his opponent limit or otherwise dictate how he could play. 

Kobe Bryant: Discipline and the Path to Greatness

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Mamba Mentality summary :

  • How Kobe Bryant was able to play and dominate the best players
  • Why Kobe took up tap dancing for a summer
  • How reading the referee's handbook helped Kobe improve his game

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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