Where did Kobe Bryant’s “Black Mamba” nickname originate?
In 2003 Kobe Bryant was one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet and arguably the best player the NBA had seen since Michael Jordan.
In 2003 Kobe Bryant was one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet and arguably the best player the NBA had seen in a generation.
Kobe: The Controversy
The Los Angeles Lakers were coming off of the back of a 3 peat and as history would later show, they weren’t done yet. Unfortunately, not all that glitters is gold and in July of that year a highly publicized sexual assault case was brought against Bryant by a 19 year old hotel employee. Bryant had checked into to a hotel in Edwards, Colorado to await surgery at a clinic nearby. His accuser alleged that the assault took place in his room.
Bryant would later admit to a sexual encounter but maintained that it was consensual. The case would eventually be dropped as his accuser refused to testify and Bryant himself he would go on to publicly apologize to his accuser, family and the general public after which a private out of court settlement was reached.
With his reputation in tatters and various sponsorship deals under threat Kobe was forced to rethink many things about his personal and professional life. That’s when he introduced the idea of an alter ego and ‘Black Mamba’ was born. Inspired by the code name of an assassin in the cult favorite film, Kill Bill by Quentin Tarantino, Bryant sought to not only reinvent himself but create a means of deflecting the intense backlash that he had begun to face.
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In an interview in 2014 in The New Yorker he would state “the name Kobe Bryant evokes such a negative emotion. I said if I create this alter ego, so now when I play this is what’s coming out of your mouth, it separates the personal stuff right? You’re not watching David Banner, you’re watching the Hulk.” Alluding to it yet again in 2015 this time with host Ahmad Rashad, Bryant would be even more specific, “When I step on that court, I become that. I am that killer snake. I’m stone cold man.”
With his on court performances speaking for themselves it didn’t take long before Nike took notice and the Mamba brand was officially born. Yet it wasn’t just a lucrative shoe and merchandise deal which Kobe agreed to, instead he had something much bigger in mind and as such the ‘Mamba League’ was created. The product of an association between Nike, Bryant and the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club, the league was specifically aimed at giving inner city kids free access to the sport.
Additionally Bryant would later go on to create the ‘ Mamba Sports Academy’ which took things a step further by offering athletic and lifestyle training to competitors at all levels in a variety of different sports. Nike themselves would even hold a ‘Mamba Day’ in honor of Kobe’s retirement in 2016. Incidentally Bryant was on his way to a Mamba Sports Academy game with his daughter and associates when he tragically perished in a helicopter crash.
“He was a beloved member of the Nike family. We will miss him greatly. Mamba Forever,” A statement from Nike read.