Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players to have ever lived and an inspiration to most NBA fans and players that were privileged enough to watch him play and win his championships during the 2000s. Bryant's passing brought to light just how many people he had touched with his tenacious play and competitive spirit, and his 'Mamba Mentality' has become immortalized in NBA lore.
Pau Gasol spoke about what it meant to be teammates with Kobe and his constant commitment to improving and winning, giving an insight into the headspace the Lakers legend was always in. And now Gilbert Arenas has spoken about it on 'I Am Athlete', asserting that while it does sound impressive, players that played with Bryant loathed the Mamba Mentality:
(starts at 40:17 minutes)
Gilbert Arenas: "When we're in sports and we're on teams, our natural instinct is to fit in, to be liked. Greatness doesn't want to be liked. Nobody liked Kobe Bryant. Like it's funny when everybody had a Mamba Mentality. Everybody hated the Mamba Mentality. Y'all hated that he thought selfish like that. Now it's okay."
Shady McCoy: "That is true. He started being cool his last year. He started being cool to everybody, smiling. I've never seen Kobe smile."
Gilbert Arenas: "Yeah because he was winding down. The competitiveness is out. You know, like, slapping players trying to get a reaction to see who's going to fold, who's not. Telling everybody 'Take my shoes off, you ain't balling like that. Take them off.' That's what greatness does. Greatness wants to challenge everybody. So nobody really likes it when it's in the locker room. That's that arrogant dude."
Gilbert Arenas is known for saying some truly wild things from time to time, but he's not exactly wrong here. It's difficult for teammates who are not on the same level mentally as the greatest ever to deal with the constant expectation and pressure put on them. Bryant will always be remembered for his will to win and his elite ability, but there will also always likely be moments that some of his teammates look back at with some resentment as well.