The former Los Angeles Lakers superstar's "Mamba Mentality Tour" kicked off in the Philippines with a media event at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bonifacio Global City on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking in front of the local press, the 37-year-old admitted that he felt excited to be back here in the country. "It's good to be back," said Bryant, who last visited Manila in 2013. “It's exciting. It's always fun to come here. The fans have so much passion for the game.”
During the media event, Bryant talked about the inner workings of his “Mamba Mentality,” a mindset he wants to share with his fans all over the world. “The Mamba Mentality is a constant quest to try to be the best version of yourself,” he shared. "It's a constant quest to try to be a better you today than you were yesterday."
After the press event, Bryant headed to the Smart Araneta Coliseum for the Mamba Mentality Night, where his fans will get to witness his famed work ethic in action.
Although the media event was far from being a subdued scene, it was nowhere near the festival-like atmosphere inside the Araneta. People came in droves, dressed in purple and gold #8s and #24s and just about every Kobe shirt imaginable. They cheered the kids who participated in the shooting events. They stood up practically whenever they spotted someone tall emerging from the black curtain that separated the dugout and the hardcourt—as if Kobe was going to enter there and not via THE STAGE in the middle of the coliseum.
Then, it happened:
Mamba Mentality, explained Kobe, is also about pushing yourself, especially when you're practicing. Shooting drills, for instance, should have some level of pressure on it. Something needs to be on the line. For the shooting drill he administered with a handful of UAAP players, Kobe split the group into two, and told them that the losing team had to do two suicide runs. "If you don't want to run, don't lose," said the Mamba.
After the drills, the old killer Kobe made a surprise appearance. While discussing how pushing his limitations helped his career, he called out one of the players who ran suicides, "You weren't touching the lines, I saw you." Damn, Mamba.
The college players, coached by Bryant, then duked it out against a PBA selection led by Jimmy Alapag. With about six minutes to go in the exhibition game, the audience started to chant their hero's name, egging him to join the fray. "Not a chance," Kobe answered back, smiling. "I'm retired. I stopped at 60," he continued, referring to his epic performance in his farewell game. Double damn, Mamba.
The program ended with Nike Philippines paying tribute to the soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer, unveiling this artwork on the rafters of the legendary coliseum.
Finally, an obviously surprised and grateful Kobe addressed his Filipino fans:
And just like that, it was over. Mamba, out.
Photography by Mark Jesalva and Jaime Campos for Spin.ph