Richard Sherman leaned on Kobe Bryant to help him through his torn Achilles during his rehab in 2018. George Kittle wore Bryant’s shoes throughout high school and credited the Lakers star for being the reason he got into playing competitive sports at a high level. Dante Pettis decided what he would wear for football games in college based on what Bryant wore the night before.
Suffice to say, 49ers players were among the countless who were impacted by Bryant’s life. His death Sunday, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was the biggest story at the Super Bowl LIV “Opening Night” event in Miami.
Sherman, who grew up in Compton, became close with Bryant as star athletes representing Los Angeles. He was trying to find ways to cope with the loss of the basketball legend just days before one of the biggest games of his football life.
“I just know how he would have wanted me to take this and to react especially in this moment and in this game,” Sherman said. “I was really sad yesterday and sad this morning I was really down. I was in the dumps and then I thought about what he would tell me, you know what I mean?
“And he would tell me to stop being a baby and to man up and play it and do it in his honor and win this game for him and that is what we are trying to do. We’re gonna go out there and try to play some dominating ball just like he wanted, you know the mamba mentality still lives on.”
The “Mamba Mentality” is Bryant’s calling card that illustrated his legendary drive. It was about winning at whatever cost and putting in the necessary work to get there.
It was a singular focus that became popularized by a catchphrase. But it meant everything to generations who looked up to him for his work on the court and what he represented as a man and father to his family.
“It’s crazy because there might have been people that had his mentality before but it wasn’t called the ‘Mamba Mentality’,” Pettis told The Bee. “(Michael) Jordan might have had the same mentality but he didn’t have a name for it. Just the fact that it’s (Bryant’s) is crazy.
“And it’s not just sports. It’s being the best you can possibly be in whatever you’re doing. He obviously did that. He’s the best he could be in everything he was doing. Just having that mentality, attacking every day and not being afraid of failing.”
Pettis wore No. 8 at Washington because of Bryant. He would match his wrist bands and leg sleeves to what Bryant was wearing on the basketball court. Pettis said one of the best gifts he ever received was from a mentor, Kevin Carroll, who was also close with Bryant.
“He talked to Kobe, basically telling him how much of an influence that Kobe was in my life,” said Pettis as his eyes welled. “And I thought that was like the dopest thing ever, he had a full-on conversation with Kobe about me. I was like the coolest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”
For Kittle, the All-Pro tight end, Bryant was one of his favorite athletes. He wore No. 24 in highschool basketball and football because of Bryant.
“That was kind of a tough one for me,” Kittle said. “I still have my high school Kobe Bryant shoes that I customized from my high school team. I had home and away shoes with snakeskin on them. They were the coolest things I’ve ever owned.
“He inspired me to attack the game. There was never anyone I ever saw who was on a peak higher than Kobe Bryant.”
By Chris Biderman, The Sacramento Bee