The Mamba Mentality, a concept concocted by the evil genius Kobe Bryant, is all about having the mental toughness to be the best version of yourself, pushing yourself to the limits, and maintaining focus to do whatever it takes to succeed.
They say you can’t win a title without Shaq? Win two. Can’t play the piano? Learn to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” by ear. Can’t play healthy anymore? Drop 60 on your final game.
It’s an approach so compelling, so alpha, that a number of NBA players have naturally embraced the Kobe-branded mindset.
In the edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting closing seconds of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving hit a game-winning 3 to give the Cleveland Cavaliers their first title in franchise history. Kobe was nowhere near the Oracle Arena when this happened, yet being the basketball deity that he has become, his doctrine was given credit by the All-Star point guard.
“All I was thinking about in the back of my mind was Mamba Mentality,” Irving said at the postgame presser.
Early this year, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker gunned for 70 points against the Boston Celtics, the most points any NBA player has scored since—surprise, surprise—Kobe scored 81 in 2006. Again, the Mamba Mentality was referenced.
“I saw an interview with Kobe; he said what separated him from a lot of people was everyone thought 30 points was a lot…He said he never set himself a limit, and that always sticks in my head,” Booker said after the game.
The most recent guy to be bitten by the Mamba bug is New York City’s Latvian version of Kal-El, Kristaps Porzingis. In the first eight games of the season, Superzingis (sorry) is averaging 29 points per game, and has scored 30 or more points six times already. In his past two seasons, Porzingis scored 30-plus points only three times, which means he’s now officially the 7-foot-3 portal that the Knicks need to escape the Upside Down.
“I watched a Kobe interview, the game he had 81, he said he never stopped to think, ‘Oh I got 50. I got 60.’ He just kept going. That’s my mentality always. Whatever is going on I just keep being aggressive, keep playing my game, and once the game is over I check my stats,” Porzingis said.
That’s the Mamba Mentality—a determined, calculated, and confident drive to make your shot, reserved for only a few. For us mediocre folks, who don’t have the same work ethic and focus of a Kobe or a Kristaps, there’s a cheaper, less intense, and not-at-all inspiring approach towards success: the Chamba Mentality.
The Chamba Mentality has been around a long time, long before the birth of Mamba Mentality. You’ve probably seen it outside the basketball court, too, when someone gets a new smartphone at the office Christmas raffle, or when you ace a multiple choice test that you did not prepare for, or when you make it from Quezon City to Makati in under 30 minutes on a rainy, payday Friday, or when a powerhouse team like San Miguel gets the first round pick. Waitaminute…that’s probably not a good example. But let’s just say that, generally, when there is no rhyme nor reason to explain an occurrence, that’s probably the Chamba Mentality at work.
On the court, chamba, also spelled tsamba, manifests every time shots are tagged as “lucky.” Two important points to raise about lucky shots: 1) a lucky shot (for this article’s purpose, is at least) is one that doesn’t use any of the basic mechanics of a basketball shot, and 2) a lucky shot is one that can’t be replicated. Ever.
There’s a scene in Modern Family where Luke threw a basketball at an unsuspecting Phil, who was hit by the ball square in the face. The ball ricocheted off Phil’s face and went in the hoop. The father and son tried replicating the play hundreds of times for viral video purposes, but, as one of the pillars of the Chamba Mentality dictate, they couldn’t do it again. That’s the essence of lucky shots.
Kobe’s game-winners weren’t lucky shots (he practiced those). Steph Curry’s half-court heaves weren’t lucky shots because he’s Steph Curry. Barkley’s buzzer-beater with 0.5 seconds left was not a lucky shot, nor was Derek Fisher’s 0.4 heist. Vergel Meneses’ “ala hoy” shots come close, but they weren’t lucky shots as well because the circus shots came with the science and grace of the Aerial Voyager.
This, on the other hand, was, categorically, a lucky shot:
Watch that video again. Trevor Booker had his back to basket, his knees bent, feet glued to the floor, and he just reverse taps the ball for the two points. It wasn’t a basketball play at all, but it worked. Chamba.
Here’s another lucky shot from Jae Crowder, who threw a full-court, inbounds baseball pass from the opposite end of the floor that went in. It didn’t count. It should have.
In the UAAP, National University’s Bobby Ray Parks Jr. had his own version of a lucky shot via a behind-the-back save as he flew to the baseline, not glancing at the basket even once the entire play. Sobrang chamba.
But one of the craziest lucky shots ever is courtesy of Isaiah Rider.
Rider, now retired from the NBA at 46, was known for his athletic ability and scoring and not much else. His claim to fame was an aerial display at the 1994 Slam Dunk Contest, where he brought out a dunk he dubbed the “East Bay Funk.” The dunk involved threading the baseline and cocking the ball between the legs before throwing it down. If that description sounds familiar, that’s because Kobe whipped out the exact same dunk three years later. But Rider was the first to bring it to mainstream consciousness.
Kobe’s and Rider’s paths would cross in 2000, when they became teammates in LA. As the story goes, Rider, reeling from regression, would talk trash nonstop to the then 22-year-old Kobe. After one practice, Kobe challenged Rider to a game of one-on-one, and, in front of the entire Lakers squad, Kobe served Rider up with a healthy dose of Mamba Mentality, scoring on him in every way possible—fadeaways, dunks, lay-ups.
Rider basically had to surrender to the more skilled and more well-prepared player. “Kobe destroyed him,” Laker guard Ron Harper was quoted as saying.
The beatdown happened during Rider’s twilight years in the NBA. But when his soul was still intact as a young hotshot in Minnesota, Rider pulled off a spectacular play that will never be replicated by anyone, not even the great Kobe. In the play, Rider tried to save an errant pass from going out of bounds. But instead of diving for the ball and looking to pass, he threw it towards the general direction of the basket without looking. The ball hit nothing but net.
This crazy, stupid shot should serve as a reminder for us mere mortals—the Isaiah Riders of the world—that banking on chamba every now and then isn’t too bad. When life is being a pain in the ass, find comfort in knowing that there’s always a chance, despite the odds. Remember that once upon a time, Isaiah Rider did this: