When Kobe Bryant reached out to my mentor Harvey Dorfman in 2003, he said, “I feel like I’m losing my edge.”
Harvey, the giant of the mental game industry, and known as the ‘Yoda of Baseball’ said, “You’re not losing your edge. You’re losing your identity, and you’re going through an ego death.”
Harvey then introduced Kobe to me, because I specialized in ‘identity-based performance’ and thought this new methodology could help. When we started working together, we didn’t create the Black Mamba straight away. It took a few weeks for the Black Mamba to be birthed into creation.
However, we did find what I call, ‘The Source Code’ which became the traits and attributes he wanted to bring to the court. That’s when I introduced him to the concept of Alter Egos, and together we created the Black Mamba. This persona embodied his best qualities and allowed him to step up his game.
Kobe approached getting into character for the Black Mamba persona as similar to an actor preparing for a role. He would put himself in a mental cage and become the Black Mamba, a stone-cold killer with no emotion or pressure. To help him get into character, he would listen to the Halloween theme song over and over again, choosing the Michael Myers version because of the mask’s lack of expression.
What’s fascinating about Kobe’s approach to Alter Egos is that he didn’t just let the Black Mamba out, he got into the cage with it. He wanted to commune with the Black Mamba and let it absorb him, so that he could fully embody the character and dominate his opponents.
When it comes to what made the Black Mamba so effective, I break it down into three key elements:
1. By being intentional about who he was bringing onto the court, Kobe was able to create a custom identity that helped him win in that domain of his life.
2. By being playful, he was able to remove his ego from the equation and choose to be the best version of himself for that particular role.
3. And by bringing intense focus and energy to the court, he was able to give himself the final ingredient needed to set the Black Mamba loose.
A final key point:
While everyone is hyper-aware of Kobe’s alter ego now. He never came out and told others about it until 2009. And this is a key point… because The Black Mamba was never created in just one session with me. It evolved over time.
And when you think about it, it makes sense. Your current identity in any of the roles you have in life, evolves over time. It’s just most people don’t intentionally create their identity, like I mention in ‘The Alter Ego Effect’ book Chapter 3. All of us are shaped by influences when we’re young we never had control over.
However, we’re all gifted with the creative capacity to morph, adapt, and change. And Kobe, is a gold-star example of that ability.