To kids who won’t grow up witnessing the Mamba Mentality,
I was in church this past Sunday when I started getting all these text messages. People were blowing up my phone asking, “Shay, are you OK?”
I responded to one friend, “What do you mean am I OK? What happened?”
That’s how I found out the news. Immediately, I started balling crying.
That emotion took me right back to October 27th, 1996. At the time, I was only 12 years old. That day my whole life changed. That was the day my father died in a car accident.
My dad and I were like Siamese twins. If he did push-ups, I tried to do push-ups. He would wear high white socks. So, I wore high white socks. My dad put hot sauce on his noodles. Even though it was hot, I put hot sauce on my noodles. I was such a daddy’s girl.
I remember when my mom got the phone call. When she hung up, for some reason, I already knew what happened. I just knew that my dad was dead.
When she told me, “Daddy’s gone. He’s not coming back,” I ran for the balcony.
I thought my life was over and wanted to jump, but my mom and my aunt held me back.
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The months following my dad’s death, I misbehaved in school, acting out and getting into fights. They sent me to a youth therapist, who suggested I get involved with organized sports to keep me distracted and allow me to have a few hours a day where I wasn’t grieving the loss of my dad.
One day, I was playing outside and saw kids wearing these reversible jerseys, gold on the outside and purple on the inside. They told me they were going to play basketball at the YMCA. I didn’t even know what basketball was, but I knew I wanted to play too.
My mom signed me up and a few months later, Lakers rookies Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant visited our YMCA and spoke to us. I remember I gave Derek Fisher a high five, but for some reason with Kobe, I went in for a hug. Both players made me feel special and told me to have fun, which was important for me because at that point I wasn’t very good at basketball. They made me feel like it was OK to keep coming back to the gym as long as I was enjoying myself.
After their visit, I found myself influenced by Kobe in a similar way my dad influenced me. Kobe wore baggy clothes, so I wanted to wear baggy clothes. Kobe drank Sprite, so I wanted to drink Sprite.
I started to follow the Lakers and Kobe’s career. He was coming off the bench his rookie year and then he hit this big shot, which helped him to get more time on the court. He was playing better than a rookie should play, outworking veterans and showing us the Kobe we would come to know. It made me realize that even though I started playing basketball later than most kids, I could still catch on. Even though I didn’t know the game as well as the other kids did, I could learn.
I started to put in the time and I got better. AAU teams, which are travel basketball teams, wanted me. First, I played with a small AAU team and then I got recruited to play with one of the best AAU teams in the area. We went to Nike camps and got a ton of exposure, which led to my brother and I going to a $25,000-a-year prep school for free.
As my game progressed, so did Kobe’s career. His work ethic was second to none, preparing, competing and being consistent. Kobe was never afraid to take the last shot because he knew he worked harder than anybody else. That work ethic and his fierce mentality became known as the Mamba Mentality. The Black Mamba was Kobe’s self-proclaimed nickname.
Kobe was never afraid to take the last shot because he knew he worked harder than anybody else.
Still, with a desire to be just like him, I started to call myself Kobe-A or Kobe’s little sister. I was always in the gym. Between classes in high school, I would run to get a quick layup. After school, I would practice. And at 10:00 pm, I would take the bus and climb the fence, because there were lights outside and I would shoot and shoot and shoot. Consequently, I averaged 32 points and 19 rebounds in high school.
In my junior year, for the first time in school history, we made it to the CIF championship. On the day of the game, I was hospitalized with kidney stones.
The doctors told me, “You are not going to be able to play.”
But I knew if it were Kobe, he would at least try. So, I left the hospital. I played and we won.
It was then I realized strength doesn’t come from knowing what you can achieve. It comes from achieving goals you didn’t even know you could.
I received more than 300 scholarship offers to play in college, including top programs like UConn and Stanford, but I decided on University of Southern California (USC) because my mom wanted me to stay close to home.
At USC, I had some bright moments during my freshman year, but my sophomore we made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the ’90s. We ended up losing in the second round to Michigan State by point three seconds. I had a good game, but the pain of that loss triggered that Mamba Mentality in me all over again.
We flew back to L.A. after that game and the next day, I was on a treadmill at six in the morning working out. That summer, I trained with the USC football team with guys like Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. I lost 18 pounds and then I became a two-time All-American before being drafted into the WNBA, where I won a WNBA championship with Phoenix. Now, I am 34 years old and still pursuing a professional basketball career.
Kobe taught me sacrifice and preparation. He showed me how to be a fierce competitor, not against other people, but myself. The Mamba Mentality is not a moment of success but a lifestyle of consistent hard work.
Whatever hurt me in my life, didn’t stop me in life because of the lessons I learned from Kobe.
My dad never got to see me play, but Kobe did. He came to a WNBA game with his late daughter Gigi. I was in such awe that I missed a free throw because I was staring right at him.
It was a surreal moment for me because when I lost my dad, I found Kobe, who helped me become the person I am today.
This past Sunday, after my friend texted me at church and said, “Kobe died,” my emotions and my anxiety overflowed.
Kobe was the same age as my Dad, 41, when he died, which was even more reason that the pain reminded me of my 12-year-old self. Even so, I am not the same little girl who lost her father. I now know blocking emotions isn’t the same as letting them go, and I will appropriately process my sadness over this loss. Then, I will get back to work.
See, what the Mamba Mentality taught me and what I so desperately want to convey to all of you is that when life gets hard, it doesn’t end like I thought when I was 12 years old. Instead, tough moments are where our fight begins.
Always keep pushing.
The Mamba may be out, but let’s keep his mentality within us all.
Respond to my letter. I want to hear from you. Tell me your story or react to mine.
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Nothing like maintaining a positive outlook! When i need to fight off despair i set goals. It is a great way to fight off negative thoughts and feeling!
Very interesting! Opinion at a later date!
Crazy that this still goes on. I fear for my safety almost all the time. Black or brown males are subject to arrest and violent behavior. I just read a article where a former New York cops claims they had to arrest more people of color to get a promotion. This is sick and I'm tired of living in fear. People are going to start fighting back.
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I think me and your grandpa would have been friends. I been a type 1 diabetic since three years old. I would have said the same thing waking up and seeing two nurses. Do I get to choose. I'm pretty sure I've done that before.
I have learned over my Fifty-Eight years of life, and more specifically over the last 10 that FDR's words about fearing only fear itself ring true; to me, they do, anyway. And, at the same time, how the words of the 23rd Psalm comfort me and my abundant faith in G-d allows me to fear only fear, knowing full well that He is always with me. Growing up in a Non-Orthodox, yet Observant Jewish family nicely brings both together and not only makes me feel more protected but commands me to believe so. You see, I have lived a different kind of life, as we all have to some degree, but mine changes daily. Not that I am ANY BETTER than anyone else, in fact, probably less so... I stray from my stories often. I shouldn't, but since my Stroke in 2012, I have somehow developed some sort of ADD, so please bear with me, the end will justify the means and I will *try* to stick with my story; for you, my readers. I moved my family of the ex-wife and four children Cross-Country in 2002 to be closer to my dad who was turning 75 that year, and while I could not afford both financially as well as mentally to move back to Southern California (where he and my mother lived), I chose the Midbar (Hebrew for Desert) of Arizona. Within just a few short weeks of moving here, I woke up one day with some of the most severe abdominal pain I had ever experienced. I found a local doctor and made an appointment to see him that day. I arrived at the appointment and was ushered into an examination room by their PA (Physician's Assistant), who is supposed to be the same as a Doctor, but not really (?). I was examined and Prescriptions for a Pain Medication and an Antibiotic. They continued to treat me in a like manner for almost six months when I ended up in an Emergency Room, where a CT Scan was performed and Colonoscopy was scheduled. I was then diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized obstruction and abscess in my colon that would require surgical intervention. Surgery was scheduled for two days later, on a Friday in Mid-March 2003. I arrived at the hospital at the designated time, 5:45 am; was admitted to the hospital; told them about ALL my allergies (including a BIG ONE, an allergy to a particular anesthetic agent), and taken to a room where I was put into one of those awful gowns and told that they'd be "right back" to take me to surgery. They promptly came back at 10:30 in the morning and took me to yet another room... to wait some more. At 11:45 the Anesthesiologist came in to talk with me. He informed me that he was going to use Propofol for my induction and that he was planning on using the EXACT ANESTHESIA TO WHICH I AM ALLERGIC to maintain me through surgery! "NOT ON ME, YOU'RE NOT", I exclaimed! "I'M ALLERGIC!!!" On my wrist sat a red band that clearly said ALLERGIES: CEVOFLURAINE. I then proceeded to give him a list of anesthetic agents that I knew to be safe. He tapped me on the knee and said: Okay, Smart guy, put yourself to sleep and quickly left the room. I awoke from the anesthesia on the following Wednesday evening. In addition to the NINE small incisions from various attempts to perform the procedure of removing 18" of my diseased colon through a scope, I also had one 6" cut in my belly that began around my navel and continued to just above my groin. I also began experiencing severe shortness of breath. The staples were ripped out of my skin by the Butcher Surgeon two weeks later, but my breathing difficulties continued. After being examined by one doctor after another, I finally decided to be examined by The Mayo Clinic. Over a ten-day to 2 week period, I was examined by multiple physicians, underwent numerous tests and procedures and was finally ready for my Report Appointment. I would learn the results of all of the tests and procedures and hopefully have a clear diagnosis and prognosis. The verdict had come in. Diagnosis: Terminal COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Causation: Bacterial Pneumonia due to Malignant Hyperthermia caused by induction of Detrimental Anesthesia Prognosis: 5% chance of Five-Year Survival I then took my report to a highly regarded Pulmonologist for Follow-Up Care, but not before enrolling in Rabbinical School in New York City. I had, (since age ten) always wanted to be a Rabbi. It was now or never. On the advice of the Pulmonologist, I began taking Prednisone (a Steroid) that would open up my Bronchioles and make it easier to breathe. The normal dosage for a man who is 5'9" and weighs 150 pounds (before I got sick, I weighed 174 pounds, all muscle, by the way) is <100mg per day. My STARTING dose was 100mg THREE TIMES a DAY. the dosage was increased every few months for the following THREE YEARS, when, on Sunday, September 9, 2007, at the weight of 340 Pounds (the Steroids had been increased to 250mg Four Times a day), I collapsed and at Mayo Hospital, was intubated where my organs began failing. Two nights later, on the First Night of Rosh haShana, the Jewish New Year, and while being mechanically ventilated, I went into Full Blown Total System Failure, and suffered a Cardiac Arrest for 14 minutes, followed by a Coma of several weeks duration. During my Coma, I felt as if I was in a box. The box had four dirt walls and smelled like the Morning Dew. In the upper right corner of the box sat a red square with a white X inside of it. "If only I could click on that X, I might stop this program", I thought to myself, but I could not move; I could not stand; could not reach, and could not scream for help. I lay in this place crying out in fear for what seemed like days and weeks and months. Suddenly, my cries were replaced by Psalms. I was reciting Psalms, some of which I had never even read before! And the Psalms turned into Prayers; The Kol Nidre, chanted at the beginning of our Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; every other prayer recited on this Holy of all Holy Days; the Prayers for the Sukkot Holidays that follow the next week and the Readings for every single Torah Portion of the year. I somehow knew them all. By heart. Without hesitation of memory and obviously without any text to look at. I kept reading and chanting day and night; night and day and resting in between. Really resting. Sleeping... until one day, I opened up my eyes to see my beautiful son Zac sitting at my side on my bed. Covering the holes in my throat and on the side of my neck, I managed to spit out "C'était le rêve de dix minutes le plus étrange que j'aie jamais eu"! I told my son that was the weirdest ten-minute dream that I have ever had in FRENCH, my first language and native tongue. He then told me that it had been over two months, and I was in a Hospice Facility. The night before, I had begun to breathe on my own a minute or so after being disconnected from the machines that had sustained my organs since September. A few days later I was wheeled to an ambulance outside to be transported to the truly amazing HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Scottsdale. The sun kissed my face as I felt like I was pulled up into a body of love. It spoke. In Hebrew: Don't worry, it said. "You and I are going to be okay". I spent the next six weeks learning to do things like eating and holding a pencil; how to shower and dress. I learned how to return to life. Six weeks after leaving HealthSouth, my dad died. In July 2018, my mom joined him. I have had many trials and tribulations over these last twelve years. A Stroke in 2012 took my ability to project my voice loudly; I've been hospitalized many times and know how very precious time is. I do not live for today, rather, I live for tomorrow. I do everything I can do today to help others, and pray that I am again awakened tomorrow to do more good. And if so, great! And if not; if G-d decides to take me tonight, I will hang out with my parents and loved ones forever. I win either way. President Roosevelt was right to believe in only fearing fear. Psalm 23 is even more so, as Faith follows all of us.
Funny my mom passed in 1991 as a 13 year old it was hard but she was much more then beauty. She was a fighter from the beginning and I will never be able to explain her impact. It shows you came from a strong famiy and I'm glad you had both a mom and dad because a lot of people don't. I pray your truth can make a difference
This is trying to scare us with more misinformation then actual information but thank you for giving us your reality. I like it a lot.and people just wash your hand like you should be doing anyway 😂
Great discussion, as well as some interesting numbers which I'm not sure are meant to calm us, or install even more fear. I have many of your same concerns. Just yesterday I scheduled a work trip to Miami for late next week, but am unsure if it will happen or not. And while i say or act like i'm not concerned, sub-consciously, i am quite sure it is weighing on my mind each time i cough, or sneeze, or feel "a little warm", or if someone around me does. One of the biggest fears i have is that with all of the media coverage and the additional testing becoming available, the numbers are sure to skyrocket, and this is going to really set some people off. Our country is going to go absolutely bonkers . We are all guilty of taking limited amounts of information and either talking about it like an expert, or completely overreacting. Here's hoping that the number stat to level out, and then drop. Lets hope that the American people can follow simple suggestions. Lets hope that countries from around the world can work together to come up with a viable plan to slow this train down. And last but not least, lets hope our politicians can come together to provide our country guidance as we all try to get through this. Lets hope they can forget about the presidential race for just a minute to remember what their job really is; to serve the American people. And now is their time to really step up and lead by example.
Lauren, like you I have to balance my fear and confusion. I work directly with the public and I have an immune system that is partially suppressed as a by product of treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I fear for my Father the most as his body is much weaker than even mine. I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art on Sunday just to learn three people were positively diagnosed on Monday in Cuyahoga county. You aren't alone in that fear. I think that we must turn to hope to keep us in this trying time. We have to...
Terry, As a man who has lived and breathed baseball, your letter was an absolute joy for me to read. What young boy wouldn't want to be in the clubhouse with his Dad? During your time as manager I've been to quite a few games in Cleveland. None though were as special as July 12th 2014. That was the day I celebrated my 30th birthday. Though the day centered around my birthday it saw me doing something for someone else. It was the day I took my Father to the very first professional sports game in his 59 years of life at the time. It was so touching the certificate that he got from the wonderful folks at Guest Services. And although the home team lost to the White Sox that day, it will always remain one of the best days in my heart. Letters like yours only serve to renew my love for the game of baseball. Thanks for sharing it with the little boy still inside of me wanting to throw that 0-2 curveball to the best hitter in the league.
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Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.
Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine
You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)
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Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?
So nice Roger <3
Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain
Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.