“If basketball is the best thing I’ve done in life, then I’ve failed.”
As I watched this year’s Women’s Final Four games I was blown away. Basketball fans were in for a treat as we were able to witness Arike Ogunbowale knock down not just one, but TWO game winners. The first game winner allowed her team to knock off UConn, which is often viewed as an impossible feat. The second game winner helped her team to secure its first National Championship in 17 years.
I love to watch the games during March Madness and I often find myself getting caught up in the hype. However, I believe it’s crucial that we pause and reflect. At some point you have to get away from just watching the game for entertainment. At some point you have to ask yourself, “What separates great players from phenomenal players?” I find that the answer to that question has little to do with their physical skill set but everything to do with their mentality.
One way to understand the mindset of elite athletes is to listen to their post-game interviews. In Arike’s post-game interview she touched on something that you might have missed. “I went into Mamba Mentality, that’s what I tried to channel”; said Arike Ogunbowale. Any die hard Kobe Bryant fans or basketball fans in general have heard Kobe refer to Mamba Mentality as the continual quest to be great.
Kobe Bryant is arguably one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game. His countless accolades include 5 championships, 1 league MVP, 2 scoring titles, and being named All NBA First Team 11 times. He even had both of his jersey numbers retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. Many basketball players would cut off their right arm if it meant they could win just one NBA championship. Kobe’s career is one of the most decorated of this era. If he never accomplished anything else many would still consider him to be extremely successful. Kobe does not see things that way. He recently stated, “If basketball is the best thing I’ve done in life, then I’ve failed.”
Kobe understands one simple truth that many players fail to grasp. Kobe understands that he is more than just an athlete! That may sound insignificant but it’s huge. Kobe understands that he has other gifts and talents. He understands that although basketball was his first love and he poured his heart and soul into being the best at his craft… that is not the only field he can excel in! He understands that he has multiple gifts and talents that he has yet to tap into and explore. Through the exploration of these talents Kobe was able to do something many former athletes never even dream of. Kobe won an Oscar!
Let that marinate for a minute. Your favorite basketball player won an Oscar for the best animated short film. In my opinion that is the epitome of the Mamba Mentality.
As athletes we want to win. We want to be great. Although our playing careers won’t last forever we need to take that same mentality as we move forward and explore new ventures. It will be scary and you will have your doubts but that’s ok. I seriously doubt that you were an incredible football, soccer, or basketball player the first time you picked up a ball. Yes you had talent, but it was raw. It had to be developed over time. You had to practice over and over again.
The same applies to your career. It doesn’t matter if you want to start a business, work in the nonprofit sector, or become an architect. The important thing is that you have to start now. Envision what you want your life to look like. Take inventory of you gifts. Hang around some classmates who don’t play sports. Explore internship opportunities. Sign up for a mock interview. Draft a five year plan. Do something that forces you to see yourself as more than just an athlete. You don’t want to show up to graduation or the last game of your pro career without a step by step game plan in place.
Many athletes come up short because they have tunnel vision. They go throughout college so focused on their sport that they don’t properly prepare for life after sports. They channel their inner mamba on the court but fail to realize that that same mamba mentality can cause them to soar for years after they hang it up. Sports prepare us in so many ways for so many things that we rarely take the time to pause and reflect on.
Until next time,