Kobe Bryant

Mamba mentality: Black and blue, players who bleed the same hue

Josh Buenaventura
Just like Kobe Bryant, Kiefer Ravena went through some rough patches but managed to come out a stronger and better player

The late great Kobe Bryant was all about passing that dedication, focus, resiliency, and passion – all key elements of his signature Mamba Mentality – to the next generation. Little did he know, he already set the same path for one 4-year-old Filipino boy he carried during the summer of ’98. 

But Kiefer Isaac C. Ravena had absolutely no idea back then about the athlete he shared a photo with. 

When Kiefer looks back, all he remembers is being there inside that mall, watching and supporting his dad Bong. It just so happened he was one of the lucky ones to get a photo with the future Laker legend. 

Maybe – just maybe – that encounter somehow influenced how his life and basketball career would pan out in the next two decades. 

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Taking a look at every stage of their basketball careers, it’s interesting that somehow, someway, Bryant’s experience served as a guide for the young Ravena to emulate.

When Kiefer made the big switch from La Salle to Ateneo, it could be somewhat similar to the time Kobe made the move from Italy, where he grew up for 7 years, back to the US. 

That brought a change in scenery, culture, and systems of play even. And just like Kobe who dominated for Lower Merion High, Kiefer also set the stage for the Blue Eaglets’ dominance in UAAP juniors basketball. 

Kiefer won 3 straight UAAP juniors titles, while showing local basketball his growing physique, skillset, and killer instinct. From a superb rookie year, he also went on to cop back-to-back Mythical Five and Finals MVP awards. 

Rarely did anyone see fear in the eyes of that young Kiefer, who despite losing Game 1 of the Finals in his final two years, simply refocused to propel his team to two more victories for the crown. 

Elite offensive force

Kobe also won his first 3 titles back in 2000-2002 when he was just a 22-year-old beginning to enter his athletic prime. And pretty much how Kobe had Shaq, Horry, Fox, and Harper as stellar supporting cast in the early 2000, Kiefer, too, drew help from teammates Von Pessumal, Paolo Romero, Chuck Dumrique, and Juami Tiongson.

Kiefer’s next stage in college was truly where the world got to see a full glimpse of what he can actually do on the hardwood. 

Joining a stacked Blue Eagles squad in the seniors level, he quickly showed how ready he was for the men’s game, earning Rookie of the Year honors and two more consecutive titles, bringing his total haul to 5 at just the age of 19. 

In case anyone forgot, Bryant also added two more to his resume by 2010 for a total of 5 championships for the Lakers. 

An ankle injury to Kiefer in 2013 brought the Eagles’ domination to an end, pretty much how Kobe also went through those forgettable Laker years, missing the playoffs in 2005 when he could not finish the year similarly due to a high ankle sprain. 

But it was in the succeeding years when Kiefer would truly blossom into an elite offensive force for Ateneo. Serving as the main point of Bo Perasol’s offense back then, he led the league in scoring and earned the season MVP awards in Seasons 77 and 78. 

As Kiefer toyed with defenders thrown at him every game,  Kobe too just scored at will from 2006 to 2008, earning back-to-back scoring titles to give his team a chance to make the playoffs. 

As similar as their basketball paths have unraveled over the years, both players also had to face issues off the court. Both survived past them and came out as stronger, better players than ever. Therein again lies that Mamba Mentality.

Kobe disciple

Kobe went through the roughest patch of his life when he went through personal and off-court issues in 2003. For a good part of almost two seasons, he had to face the media backlash and personally attend court trials. But when it was game time, he would simply transform back into the Black Mamba and deal with whoever came his way. 

Kiefer likewise had to undergo the same hardship, physically, mentally, and emotionally as he was taken away from the game he loves when FIBA suspended him for 18 months in 2018. 

He was in that deep, dark place for quite a time, not knowing what to do and why he faced what he did. He could not train or play. Again, he dug deep into what Kobe taught him all those years, from watching him in the Lakers games to meeting him and getting advice personally from the NBA great.

If not for the world’s situation right now, maybe Kiefer would be back tearing up the PBA more than ever before. Who knows what drive and determination was left on this Kobe disciple?

Most people know Kiefer as this gladiator, competitor, and ‘killa’ inside the 4 lines of the court. But deep down, not many are aware that he also shares Kobe’s mentality in shaping the next generation of hoopers.

He didn’t have to go far from his own Eagles’ nest, as the first names he took under his wing are fellow Ateneans Jolo Mendoza and twins Matt and Mike Nieto – who all played vital roles in the school’s successful bid to reclaim lost glory in UAAP basketball. 

Kiefer actually began mentoring Jolo when the current Blue Eagle was just 13 years old in 7th grade. He eventually did the same for the Nieto brothers when they led the team back to the UAAP Finals in 2017 where they reclaimed the title after a five-year drought.

Mendoza became one of the deadliest shooters in the UAAP seniors level thereafter, while the Nietos have developed to become part of the national training pool for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup that will be held on home soil. 

Similar to his idol, Kiefer saw the need to lend a hand to upcoming ballers, to help them take that next step in their game to be better. He himself dedicated his time and effort over the years to putting in the work in the gym, rep by rep, shot per shot. And as Kobe often said, nothing ever beats sticking to the basics day in, day out. 

Despite being in the spotlight for what seems like forever, the NLEX guard is still just 27 years old, right at the prime age of his professional and national team career. 

Bigger goals, brighter lights, and the world stage still await him. Knowing he has that Mamba Mentality from Kobe instilled deep within, there’s no doubt he’ll reach those dreams eventually.

Just like Mamba.

– Rappler.com