Tiki: Kobe Was "Torchbearer" Of Mamba Mentality


As the sports world continues to mourn the death of Kobe Bryant, who was among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday, Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney reflected on Bryant’s life and legacy on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki & Tierney.

Bryant, an 18-time All-Star, won five NBA titles and two Finals MVPs with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist, leading the Americans to victory in 2008 and 2013. He is among the greatest winners in basketball history, if not all of sport.

Even if he rubbed some people the wrong way at times.

"When he was playing, he was a dog, man," Barber said. "He was dialed in. He would make enemies of teammates who didn’t want to have the same drive. Shaq, Dwight Howard – Dwight Howard wanted to have fun playing basketball. Kobe was like, ‘We’re not having fun. We’re here to win.’ And so, he’d make enemies because he wanted to be great.”

And he was. Bryant’s 18 All-Star nods are the second-most in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His 11 first-team All-NBA selections are the second-most in NBA history behind LeBron James. Bryant also ranks fourth on the league’s all-time scoring list.

“The overarching reality that sets in is greatness was all he cared about, and winning was all he cared about,” Barber said, “and that’s a burden sometimes when you’re the torch-bearer of that mentality. It doesn’t matter if your team wins 25 games or if your team’s winning 65 games. He was the torch-bearer of that mentality for the Lakers. It was good and it was bad, but it was ultimately about greatness. But that’s challenging to your psyche.”

After Bryant retired in 2016, he seemed…different. More relaxed.

“When he retired, he smiled,” Barber said. “It’s almost like he became acutely aware of the magnitude of himself. He was embracing it. He was enjoying it – really for the first time. Of course he enjoyed the championships and the success he had as a Laker, but I really felt like post-career, he started to appreciate and enjoy what he had actually built in those 20 years as a player.”