For Jayson Tatum, there was only one mentality to have for Game 7 — Mamba Mentality.
Tatum is a disciple of the late Kobe Bryant’s philosophy, which is based on the idea that in order to achieve greatness, one must be ultra-committed to the task at hand.
“[Mamba Mentality is] all about focus,” Bryant once said. “I don’t care who you are, where you’re from — it doesn’t matter. It’s having a focus and having a purpose. You wake up every single day to get better today than you were yesterday. Doesn’t matter what you are — basketball player, hockey player, golf player, painter, writer, doesn’t matter.”
With Game 7 being a win-or-go-home situation, Tatum showcased his full embrace of Mamba Mentality by wearing a purple and gold No. 24 armband and a Kobe Bryant-themed pair of Air Jordan 36s.
The armband is pretty self-explanatory, as Bryant wore an armband throughout his career and rocked No. 24 for part of his illustrious career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Tatum’s shoes, however, were a bit more nuanced.
The all-black Jordans feature a snakeskin pattern throughout the upper and have “How much does it mean to you?” on one heel tab and “Keep it rollin'” on the other. The question and phrase were messages from Bryant to Tatum, as the two trained together in 2018.
“I’m here working out with you because you inspired me without even knowing,” Tatum said about his training session with Bryant on JJ Redick’s podcast. “Besides my son being born, that’s like the best day of my life … I’ll never forget that day.”
“It was just a surreal moment,” Tatum added. “Just looking at him, remembering myself when I was a young kid, watching him on TV and being like, that’s who I want to be like. This is why I love basketball because he inspired me.”
Bryant is Tatum’s favorite player of all time and even has a large No. 24 jersey tattooed on his left leg. Tatum also wore No. 10 in the 2021 Olympics because that’s the number Bryant wore for USA Basketball.
But overall, the tattoo, Olympic number choice and Game 7 tribute serve as a reminder for Tatum of the lessons Bryant taught him. Lessons that he will never forget and will always look to when he needs to elevate his game to another level.
“One of the many things I took from him that always stuck with me,” Tatum said about Bryant.
“He kind of just asked me one day, ‘How much does it mean to you?’ and that kind of put things in perspective. How much does being great or being a champion, or, whatever, what are you willing to give up? What are you willing to do to sacrifice? And, I think that was kind of the motto he lived by.
“Everyone wants to win,” Tatum added. “I want to be a champion. I want to be an MVP and want to be one of the greatest to ever play, Hall of Fame. That’s something I’m actively working on.”
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