Kobe Bryant remains an inspiration for sports stars in times of prosperity and adversity — even after the tragic death of the Los Angeles Lakers legend three years ago.
Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” has been a source of guidance for both friends and rivals. Even though the five-time NBA champion grew up a New York Metz fan and started rooting for the L.A. Dodgers after joining the Lakers, New York Yankees All-Star Aaron Judge recently opened up on how the NBA great’s determination “helps him lock in” during games.
On Wednesday, Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson collected an ESPY award for Best Comeback Athlete after missing two seasons with ACL and Achilles injuries — before returning and winning the 2022 NBA championship. In an emotional acceptance speech, Thompson discussed Bryant’s impact on his career and state of mind during the lengthy rehab:
"He inspired me to be the athlete I am today."
Klay thanks Kobe and Gigi in his ESPYS acceptance speech 🙏 pic.twitter.com/2q1CahEXPY
— ESPN (@espn) July 21, 2022
“The best memories I have growing up down here in Southern California are going to Staples with my father,” Thompson said. “I would go to every game early just to watch Kobe do his thing. “I read Mamba Mentality every day during rehab. Those are the best memories of my life watching him play. He inspired me to be the athlete I am today.”
Thompson truly channeled the Mamba Mentality in the 2022 playoffs. Just months removed from his comeback, not only did Golden State’s guard average 19.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 38.5% for three, but also clocked in 36 minutes per game in 22 postseason games — more than any other Warriors player.
Shareef O’Neal recalls Bryant’s support growing up
Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef — who played for the Lakers in this year’s Summer League — recently described how close a relationship he had forged with Bryant growing up.
Shareef said the Lakers legend would encourage him to pursue his dreams and check on him after his open heart surgery.
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