Las Vegas athletes inspired by Kobe's 'mamba mentality'

Posted at 2:02 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 17:16:27-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Legacy is a goal many athletes aspire to but few achieve.

Kobe Bryant’s legacy was firmly in place when he was alive and was cemented even further when he died in a tragic crash on Jan. 26, 2020.

His so-called “mamba mentality” was legendary.

It was a commitment to be the very best and his impact on the sport would grow as more and more people learned about his passion for women’s basketball, not just the men’s game.

Two local pro athletes were inspired by Bryant and is someone who continues to inspire them.

Sports has always had a bond with Las Vegas, and Kobe Bryant had his fair share of memorable moments under these bright lights.

From dunking over future defensive player of the year in Ben Wallace during a pre-season game at UNLV to showing off his talents during the 2007 All-Star game at the Thomas and Mack Center.

Kobe would be named MVP in that game.

“It feels good you know. It felt good to come to Las Vegas and play,” said Bryant after the All-Star game in 2007. “We had a great time. It was a great weekend.”

His lasting impact is personal for many playing the game today.

Many current pro athletes grew up watching the Lakers legend, inspiring and motivating them with his determination.

Two such athletes call Las Vegas home: Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Aces MVP forward A’ja Wilson.

“Kobe Bryant, 100% (inspired me). You know, I watched every video, I read every bio, I read everything,” said Carr.

“Kobe was someone who really inspired me just in a way that I didn’t see until he was gone,” said Wilson.

Both felt a special bond with Kobe. Carr watched him growing up and inspired him to pursue his dream of playing quarterback.

“Kobe Bryant inspired me to do something that a lot of people counted me out when I was younger,” Carr said. “A lot of people said I couldn’t do it and here I am seven years, man, still doing it and still motivated by things and words that he said.”

Kobe and Carr were close. When Carr was injured in 2016, Kobe reached out to help with the recovery process.

That friendship grew over the years.

Wilson and Kobe also formed a bond shortly after Kobe retired from basketball to focus on family.

Kobe took his daughter Gianna to basketball games and taught her more about the game.

He even stood up for the WNBA and called for better pay for the athletes.

In his post NBA life, Kobe began showing up to Aces games with Gianna. Their presence alone would turn WNBA games into Las Vegas’ newest attraction.

Wilson would quickly become a mentor to Gianna, forming a close relationship with the Bryants.

“Kobe meant a lot to the WNBA and to women’s basketball as a whole. I think because he had his daughters, he kind of saw it first-hand on the father side of the growth they can go through and the level that they can play,” said Wilson.

Kobe’s NBA career was decorated with championships. After retiring, the “Black Mamba” would become a champion for women’s basketball as a proud “girl dad.”

“He had all the respect for us, and I think that was key in us moving upward and onto the future because we had people like him — the basketball God, the basketball G.O.A.T — and was really 10 toes down for us. That’s something that is truly special,” said Wilson.

Like her idol before her, Wilson was named league MVP this past season. She remains determined to carry on Kobe’s legacy.

“For the people at home, the one thing you can do about carrying on Kobe’s legacy is respect women’s basketball and respect women’s sports.”