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Why is Kobe Bryant nicknamed 'Black Mamba'?

Kobe Bryant, one of the most popular NBA stars, is popularly nicknamed the 'Black Mamba'. Let us have a look at the story behind this.

Kobe Bryant Black Mamba
Kobe Bryant is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players ever

In sports, we often see many players getting monikers that stick with them throughout their careers. Sachin Tendulkar is popularly known as ‘The Little Master’, Pele is nicknamed ‘Black Pearl’, Michael Phelps is known as ‘The Baltimore Bullet’, amongst others.

These sobriquets often create a unique image of the sport star in the minds of the public, and in many cases, help people to identify with the star better. It also is a way of marketing the star better and helping create a larger than life image of the concerned star in the eyes of fans.

Here, we look at the case of Kobe Bryant, who is nicknamed ‘Black Mamba’, and see how he got this title.

Origin of the alias ‘Black Mamba’ for Kobe

By 2003, Kobe Bryant had already been a very successful professional NBA player, and had led his team, the Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002. He was at the peak of his powers, and everything going for him.

However, life took a difficult turn in 2003. Kobe was accused of sexual assaulting a 19-year old woman in Colorado. He faced sharp criticism from both media and his fans, and his family life had also been affected.

"I hear everything the crowd is saying. I hear it." Bryant had once commented following a clip during which Boston Celtics fans could be heard chanting "Kobe sucks!"

 "So, it's like this place which was my refuge is now being bombarded with all kinds of things they would say. I had to separate myself. It felt like there were so many things coming at once. It was just becoming very, very confusing. I had to organize things. So I created The Black Mamba."

This helped him separate his professional life from his personal issues. Now comes the question, why did he choose the title “Black Mamba”?

In an interview given to Ben McGrath of the New Yorker in March, 2014, Kobe said that he gave himself after watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” in which the snake, known for its agility and aggressiveness, was used as a code name for a deadly assassin.

“I read up on the animal and said, ‘Wow, this is pretty awesome’”, Bryant recalled. “This is a perfect description of how I would want my game to be.”

Here’s the scene from “Kill Bill” which inspired Kobe to take up the title “Black Mamba”:


A few years back, Kobe also starred in a movie with director Robert Rodriguez. The movie was named “The Black Mamba”, and showed Kobe as the main protagonist, in a fight with a formidable foe played by Kanye West. Let us have a look at the movie:

The legacy of Kobe Bryant

Bryant has been called "one of the greatest players in the history of our game" by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The New York Times wrote that Kobe has had "one of the most decorated careers in the history of the sport”. Sporting News and TNT named Kobe Bryant their NBA player of the decade for the 2000s.

After Kobe has announced his plans to retire after 2015-16 NBA season, accolades have started to come in from all corners. Recently, the Hawks and Zoo Atlanta announced that it will rename its black mamba “Kobe” in favour of the famous Lakers star.

"Kobe Bryant's career accomplishments speak for themselves," Hawks CEO Steve Koonin commented recently. "He has set a standard with his incredible work ethic, tremendous will and competitive spirit. We're happy to be partnering with Zoo Atlanta to recognize the impact Kobe has made on the NBA and its popularity worldwide."

"Mr. Bryant is a legend on the court, and the black mamba is a legend in the wild," Zoo Atlanta president and CEO Raymond B. King commented. Clearly his nickname will become immortalised with the legend himself. 

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