Despite all his success on the court, the thing most fans associate when it comes to Kobe Bryant is his mentality. While Bryant was a phenomenal athlete during his time in the NBA, it was his elite mental toughness that resonated with fans the most.
Bryant was by no means a guaranteed success in the league. He entered the NBA in 1996 as a high school prodigy. But franchises were skeptical about taking him because he didn't have enough experience coming straight from high school.
The Lakers took a chance on him, trading Vlade Divac to the Hornets in order to secure Bryant's arrival to the franchise. The move was orchestrated by NBA legend and then-Lakers GM Jerry West, who showed a lot of faith in Kobe.
That move paid off in a few years, as Bryant became the secondary superstar for the Lakers behind Shaquille O'Neal, as they went on to win 3 NBA championships consecutively between 2000 and 2002.
One of the players who faced him during that championship run was former NBA star and coach Mark Jackson. Jackson, who faced Kobe and the Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals with the Pacers, was a guest on Shannon Sharpe's 'Club Shay Shay'.
Sharpe asked him whether he would rather have Kobe's mentality or LeBron James' basketball IQ (0:23 mark). Jackson responded that he would rather have Kobe's mentality because that would be useful to find success in all walks of life, not just in the basketball world.
“That’s a close one. I would take Kobe’s mentality. The reason why is because I would be successful in life, period. Whether it be basketball or somewhere else, I’m going to be good.”
Jackson isn't the only one to pick Kobe over LeBron. While Jackson was only talking about certain attributes of the two, players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Kevin Durant all picked Kobe Bryant over LeBron James.
Bryant's refusal to accept a loss was a big part of his rise to superstardom. While his talent was considered on par with the best in the league, it was his never-give-up mentality that helped the Lakers win championships during his tenure.
The Lakers won 2 more NBA championships with Bryant in 2009 and 2010, where he showcased his incredible mental toughness throughout the series. By the end of his career, Bryant was remembered as one of the greatest to ever play the game.