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18 Year Old Kobe Crushing Weights Before The Dunk Contest Is The Story We Needed To Get Hyped For All-Star Weekend

I understand no one is happy that football is over until September. I also understand that the NBA All-Star Game and all its ancillary festivities don’t pack a punch like they did back in the day. So it’s understandable to need a little bit of a jolt to get you amped for this coming weekend. Sports anecdote Adderall, if you will.

Well buckle up because I’m about to inject some Mamba Mentality bad-assedness directly into your veins.

The last time the All-Star Game was in Cleveland was in 1997 and an 18-year old rookie named Kobe Bryant was set to participate in the dunk contest. Cavs guard Terrell Brandon was headed to his second All-Star game and had established himself as a respected vet in the league.

Brandon bumped into Kobe in the tunnel before the festivities and introduced himself to Kobe. Kobe not only knew who he was but also knew how many points per game he averaged in college. He wanted an explanation on how Brandon averaged 27 a game when he was only 5’ 11”. Kobe was always a student of the game, always trying to find an edge or ways to improve.  

That led to this exchange:

 Bryant: “What do you think about my game. How can I get better?”

Terrell remembers feeling like Kobe was asking a genuine question that someone would only ask in a situation like that if they truly wanted to be great. He offered the rookie the perspective of an NBA veteran in response.

Brandon: “I don’t know about your eating habits, but stay away from fast food. And get on the weights. The weight room is going to help you as you get older. You’re going to get more mature, and you’re going to gain weight naturally. But get on the weights in the meantime. Get in the weight room and get stronger.”

Bryant: “Man, I appreciate that.

Seems like a pretty innocuous exchange, right? A rookie asking a veteran All-Star some tips on taking his game to the next level. I doubt Brandon would even remember this exchange today if it weren’t for what happened next.

Terrell walked in to grab a bottle of water, and he assumed Kobe made his way out onto the court. That’s why it seemed odd when Brandon and the Cavaliers trainer, who was also in the locker room, started to hear a loud banging noise nearby.

“We were the only people in the locker room, and we heard a thud, thud, thud, like that,” Brandon said. “We thought something was going on in the ceiling or with the ventilation system. But then, when I walked out of the locker room, the noise got louder. It sounded like it was coming from the weight room. So I opened the door to the weight room, and Kobe was in there lifting weights – five minutes after I told him to start making weights part of his workout regimen.”

“That was some great advice, TB!” Kobe shouted as he curled a pair of dumbells in his Lakers uniform. “I thought I’d get started with these weights right away.”

“Hey, man,” Brandon replied with a laugh. “There’s a lot of people out there waiting on you. I didn’t mean you should start lifting weights right now.

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Ummm, what? This is NBA-All Star weekend. When all the stars come out to play. You can’t throw a rock without it blasting some groupie in a crop top heading to next exclusive party in hopes of sinking her hooks into a guy with a signing bonus. And the guys use this time as a break from the grind of the regular season. Blow off a little steam.

But not Kobe. He jumped straight into the weight room and then proceeded to unleash some between-the-legs windmill filth on his competition to win the dunk contest.

This kid is fresh out of high school, doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground and he’s preparing for the dunk contest like it’s game seven of the NBA Finals. And did you notice what he did after that dunk? This lunatic flexed his muscles like he was showing off his shiny new weapon!

I feel like Terrell Brandon owes the world an apology for ever making Kobe think he needed to improve something in his game. Because as we would come to find out over the next 19 seasons, if you said anything like that to Kobe he was going to work on it obsessively and then use it to rip your heart right out of your chest. That’s the Mamba Mentality.

The Black Mamba moniker wouldn’t come to exist until 2003 after Kill Bill was released and Kobe adopted the film's code for deadly assassin as his alias. But the mentality was obviously already deeply embedded in his DNA. The guy was just built different, plain and simple.

And I don’t mean “built different” in the way everyone uses it these days. Where it is always followed by the 😤 emoji and celebrating anyone that does anything with slightly more than average effort. I’m talking legendary drive to be the greatest built different. I talking about the will to out-work you and then talk shit to you about it built different.

It’s the stuff of legend now but the dude used to start working out at 4am just so he could double up his peers training efforts. This way they could never catch up to him.

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You think James Harden is up at 4am trying to outwork his opponents? Hell no. He hasn’t even gotten home from the strip club yet.  

My son is 13 and I’m going to take him down to the All-Star festivities this week. He will be the same age I was when I got to go back in 1997. It was guys like Kobe that made me fall in love with the NBA. And that love hasn’t faded. Neither has Kobe’s spirit.

My son is an athlete and I force-feed him Kobe highlights and interview clips any time I can. Because if even an ounce of that Mamba Mentality sticks with him he will be a better athlete and a better man for it.

Now sit back and enjoy Kobe's Top 100 moments of his career…