MIAMI — Even as all eyes shift toward the NFL and Sunday's Super Bowl, many are still thinking about the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant.
That much was clear on Saturday, as New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley walked the red carpet at the NFL Honors award show donning a leather Los Angeles Lakers jacket. The 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year's jacket was similar to the one Bryant wore in the aftermath of the 2000 NBA Finals, which marked the first of his five world championships.
Last Sunday, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were two of nine people to die in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. As the sports world mourned Bryant's untimely passing, Barkley was one of the athletes most vocal about the impact the 18-time NBA All-Star had on his career.
“Big inspiration to me,” Barkley told The New York Post. “Unfortunately I never got to meet him, but he had a big impact on me and the type of player I hopefully continue to be. I love everything he is about: The Mamba Mentality.”
Selected with the No. 2 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Barkley has already established himself as one of the league's most dynamic young players. According to the Penn State product, that wouldn't have been possible without Bryant's implication and his own adoption of the "Mamba Mentality."
“You have a relentless approach,” Barkley said. “You find something you are passionate about and want to be great at. And you don’t just talk about it, you go and do it. You get to the point where you get others around you to do it, too. I think he did that the best out of anyone.”