“In basketball, you can correct your mistakes immediately and beautifully, and in midair.” – Jim Carroll
Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were lost in yesterday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA. As a small food business, it’s not usually our place to speak out on the death of a public figure like Kobe Bryant, but this is different.
Although I wasn’t athletically gifted and struggled with weight problems as a kid, I was obsessed with basketball. If I could have excelled at anything, it would have been basketball. I loved the speed, strategy, physical skill, and teamwork of the game. You could be any size and have a position on the court. A great jumper, a quick instinct to box out under the boards, or a knack for passing could make you competitive with players who were much older, stronger, and more athletic. I was born in 1976, so you could probably guess that my early basketball heroes were Dr. J, Magic, Worthy, Bird, MJ, Stockton, Malone, Barkley, and the other titans of the NBA in the 1980s.
Kobe Bryant had just graduated high school when he was selected 13th in the 1996 NBA Draft. I knew about this wunderkind, of course, and had seen gravity-defying clips of him dunking over whole backcourts of opposing high school teams. He was obviously physically special, but he’d prove to be much more than that. In his 20-year professional career, he won five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, and nearly every individual accolade possible as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers. In retirement, he became the first champion professional athlete to win an Oscar—and the first African American to win one for Best Animated Short Film—after writing and narrating Dear Basketball. Rare among male sports superstars, he was an outspoken champion of women’s professional sports and the WNBA. He was also fluent in Italian and, by ear, learned to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on piano over the course of a single basketball season.
There are so many stories about his legendary drive, work ethic, and 12-hour days in the gym, but his influence on me goes beyond the age-old value of hard work. I think it boils down to a statement he made at his retirement ceremony in 2017:
“Those times when you get up early and you work hard. Those times you stay up late and you work hard. Those times when you don’t feel like working. You’re too tired. You don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream.”
It’s about the work.
The reward is in the process, not the result.
Basketball fantasies long gone, my aim for years has been to make the best possible versions of foods I love; to run the kind of business that reflects the values I wish to see in the world; and to set new standards for integrity, sustainability, and quality in the process. Getting up early on a weekend to set up at a farmers’ market, re-making a recipe for the 20th time, wiping down the underside of a shelf in the back corner of our building, working a holiday sales event wearing a back brace that no one can see, staying up late to apply labels… that is actually the dream.
Don’t get me wrong; external validation in the form of awards, media recognition, and public accolades are all wonderful, and we never take them for granted, but the ultimate value in dedicating oneself to a practice is in the doing. Chase perfection. Embrace every failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. Think of adversity as something to overcome. Never stop working, because, in the work, you achieve the dream. That, to me, is the #mambamentality.
It so happens that one of the nut butter recipes we worked hardest on perfecting is Hot Mamba, our tribute to the tradition of spicy peanut butter, or mamba, of Haiti and the Carribean. Today through Friday, January 31, we’ll donate 24% of Hot Mamba sales on our web shop to the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of youth and families in need, both domestically and globally.
– Mark Overbay, Big Spoon Roasters Co-Founder & President