A few days after Kobe Bryant’s death, Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale went to get a tattoo of Bryant’s iconic logo near her wrist.
“I look at that before every game. I see it all the time, so that is definitely a big way that I keep him with me all the time. I think having that Mamba Mentality is really the best way anyone can carry his legacy because not a lot of people have it.”
Like millions across the world, Ogunbowale was heartbroken to learn about the death of her idol. An idol that she grew a relationship with over the years. She wears 24 and shares the same clutch gene.
It was Kobe who reached out after Ogunbowale's game-winning shot against UConn in the 2018 Final Four.
It was Kobe who surprised her on Ellen.
And it was Kobe who took time to help her work on her craft and give her advice.
In honor of Nike’s “Mamba Week,” the WNBA superstar will conduct a session in the Mambacitas Virtual Academy, in partnership with the WNBA and NBA, to create and share her ideas on how to encourage more girls to play sports.
The Crossover had the opportunity to chat with Ogunbowale about honoring Kobe’s legacy, his influence on her game and more.
SI: Why was Kobe such a big inspiration in your life? How did he impact your basketball career?
AO: It started off on how he played. It was something about Kobe that I definitely wanted to model my game after and it was his mentality more than anything. He was a dominant player and he thought he was the best player on the court—that is something I try to do, and he was just a big inspiration. We were able to grow a little relationship. That just heightened how much I looked up to him.
SI: How do you try to mimic his game?
AO: It’s really about crunch time when things are getting tight when my team needs a bucket or anything, I try to channel that Mamba Mentality. You have to have that mentality that you are going to be that go-to player and do whatever you can.
SI: What is your favorite Kobe memory? Are there any specific conversations with him that stand out?
AO: Before my rookie year, I was in L.A., and he invited me to his studio and I watched him do a Detail on Kyrie Irving, and then I talked to him for a few hours in his office. That was definitely one of the most memorable moments.
SI: You are participating in the Mambacitas Virtual Academy. What are some ways you are trying to push the women’s game to a new level?
AO: I think giving young girls role models to look up to that doesn't have to be men. Obviously, Kobe was one of my idols and I respected him, but I did not have that on the women’s side and that really has a lot to do with TV and them putting games on. As you see now there are more games on television and there are more people talking about the WNBA and saying that they love the game. But for me as a player, I am just trying to do what I can to get better because that makes the game more exciting and it gets more people to watch. Also for young girls and young boys as well who want to play like me. So I am going to try to keep trying to elevate the women’s game because it keeps changing and it keeps getting better every year.