Kobe Bryant: An inspiration to the masses
Associate Sports Editor
“My whole life I have played basketball because of Kobe Bryant.”
Those are the words of senior forward Samone Defreese, a member of the Delaware women’s basketball team. Since childhood, Defreese has admired the late NBA star, Kobe Bryant. She said he played a huge role in getting her to the point of being a Division I basketball player. Along with Defreese, people around the world were inspired by both Bryant’s outstanding play and even more extraordinary work ethic.
“Kobe Bryant is the perfect example that work ethic is the reason that you will end up where you want to be.” Defreese said. “I wanted to play Division I basketball player one day, and if I wanted to get there, I had to have a similar work ethic as Kobe.”
Over his long NBA career that work ethic was nicknamed “The Mamba Mentality.” In short, it was based on loving what you do, loving what defines you and trying to improve upon it everyday, regardless of the setbacks.
Both Bryant and Defreese went through plenty of setbacks while playing the game of basketball. Bryant tore his achilles in the 2012-2013 season, but came back and played for another three seasons. Defreese has had three reconstructive surgeries during her time at Delaware. Instead of throwing in the towel, Defreese looked to her long time idol for motivation on how to deal with her injuries and how to come back stronger than before.
“Even when [Bryant’s] body was telling him to give up, his work ethic and pride wouldn’t let him stop.” Defreese said. “That’s been a similar comparison I’ve had throughout my career with a lot of people saying these injuries are career-ending, and I kept pushing through because that is something [Bryant] did and that is something I wanted to do myself.”
Along with his flashy play and dedicated work ethic, Bryant over time developed as a leader. He is quoted saying that, “To be an effective leader you have to be a really good listener, not to what’s being said, but what’s not being said.” Being a two-time captain for the Blue Hens, Defreese looked upon the stories of Bryant’s leadership as a way to inspire herself in how to be a leader to the rest of her teammates as well as a leader in her own community.
“A lot of the ways I’ve decided to lead were similar ways to Kobe,” Defreese said. “You see all these stories that come up and the stories aren’t about how great of a basketball player he is, but it was about what kind of leader he was on and off the court.”
When it came to Bryant’s sudden passing, Defreese did not know at first since the Blue Hens were wrapping up a road victory at Elon. Anyone who knows Samone knows the admiration she has for Bryant. After the game Defreese was informed by a member of the team’s training staff in person, before going to see the news online.
“I went back to my phone and had about thirty-eight missed text messages and sixteen missed phone calls,” Defreese said. “Someone had texted me saying you won for him and you didn’t even know it.”
The death of Bryant has started to sink in while a countless number of individuals honored him. Around the NBA, players wore his numbers eight and 24, while others who regularly wear those numbers found alternative options for the long term. To honor Bryant’s uniform numbers, at the start of some basketball games, one team would take an eight-second violation by not advancing the ball past midcourt quick enough and the other would take a 24-second shot clock violation. Just like the professionals, Defreese will be honoring Bryant not only on the court, but as she graduates college and moves into the next chapter of her life.
“Not only do I dedicate the rest of the season to [Bryant], I dedicate my life to still have the same work ethic and same drive,” Defreese said. “I’m going to be in a management program [next year] so I am going to be leading teams, so I will be able to carry on his legacy throughout the rest of my life.”
The death of Kobe Bryant is a tragedy. However, it shines a light on a man who truly dedicated his life to being great at what he loved. That is something that should be reflected on. Whether you have a love for a sport, craft, career and the list can go on, always give it your all and always challenge yourself to be better. Samone Defreese is an example of someone who truly understands, “The Mamba Mentality”. It is a way of life that shows even when things get tough and putting in the work gets hard, you still love every second of it.