Though it’s not true across the board, most great pro athletes have nicknames. Sometimes those monikers are given by the public, and sometimes, as was the case with Kobe Bryant, they are self-made. Either way, when a player goes by a different name they mean business.
The following sections cover the reasoning behind Kobe’s famous nickname, as well as when and why it first came to be. That will shed light on the Lakers great, and also give insight into how other athletes go about getting a new title.
A Second Title
The NBA is full of nicknames. Almost all superstars throughout the league have some sort of title that differs from what they were born with. That includes plays on their real name like Joker, simple first names like Giannis, and complete nicknames like the Spida.
No matter what style of name a player goes by, getting one that sticks is a big deal. It’s not just that nicknames are cool, they’re symbolic in that the player has enough clout to expand on their persona. Regular athletes almost never get nicknames, because they aren’t in the public eye.
Most of the time, nicknames are given to a player via the public or another athlete. However, while most come about naturally over time, sometimes stars get tired of waiting. In such cases, they create their own titls rather than leaving it up to the fans.
That’s exactly what happened with Kobe.
A Tough Choice
Kobe is an interesting case because it’s easy to argue his name is actually a nickname. It’s the one he was born with, but only a few players throughout NBA history have gone by their first name alone. That puts him into a special category right off the bat.
That being said, all of those players (including both Shaq and Lebron) had additional nicknames as well. That’s why Kobe also got to double dip. It wasn’t that he went by his first name, it’s that he was so good it couldn’t be ignored.
The Mamba Mentality
Kobe exploded into the NBA, wasting almost no time before he brought home multiple championships to Los Angeles. Even so, despite being an icon in his own right, the athletic guard didn’t have a true nickname to call his own.
His first name would have been enough for most players, but Kobe was not most players. He wanted to be unique, and give himself something that stood out. That chance came in 2003 with the release of the now-famous movie Kill Bill.
In the film, an assassin uses a deadly black mamba snake to kill another character. Though a bit violent, Kobe was instantly drawn to the scene (and the reptile). He immediately looked up the breed and sought to know more about it.
He soon discovered it’s one of the deadliest animals on Earth, and is known for its quickness, speed, look, and agility. Kobe identified with all those traits, and quickly adopted the persona.
That shift changed his name in the public eye, allowed him to transform into the middle stages of his career, and created one of the most iconic nicknames of all time. Without it, Kobe said he never thought he would have been able to win as much as he did.
Earning a nickname is a big step for any pro athlete. Kobe was already a multi-time champion when he decided to adopt the Mamba persona, but it fit him well nonetheless. It wasn’t just that he was quick or deadly, he was a straight killer that took down everyone in his path.