If you’ve been paying attention to Kobe Bryant’s post-NBA career, he’s made it quite clear he’s not interested in just riding off into the sunset as a basketball great. He’s got his sights set much higher.
Now, he wants to transform the way athletes — particularly young ones — hone their craft. Even those outside of basketball. As strange as it might sound, even baseball players.
This week, Bryant’s Mamba Sports Venture Lab launched its first product. It’s called Mamba RISE. It’s a smartphone app that is part game, part mental exercise, the goal is to bring Bryant’s famous Mamba Mentality to other sports. Included in the launch of Mamba RISE are baseball, football and volleyball. A basketball version is coming later. No word on if it’ll be beta-tested by a certain youth basketball team he made famous on Instagram.
The app is simultaneously aimed at kids who want to hone their skills, with gamified exercises that help baseball players read pitches or quarterbacks read coverages. But it can also be used at the pro level, with the ability to plug in actual game footage for major leaguers to study.
Count New York Mets star Pete Alonso, the likely NL Rookie of the Year and current MLB home run leader, as one of the believers. Alonso is the baseball face of the Mamba RISE. In fact, when you get into baseball mode, it’s Alonso that greets you. You can even compete against Alonso in how quickly you can read a pitch out of a pitcher’s hand.
“I mean, if Kobe Bryant wants to do something and work with me I’m all for it because he’s a competitor and a champion,” Alonso told Yahoo Sports. “To align myself with that type of winning mentality is really cool. And the type of training that he’s doing, I’m a huge fan of it. It’s a great opportunity, and I think it’s all about trying to help other people get better.”
It’s easier to hit a pitch out of the park if you know what it is out of their hand.
Excited to join @mambasportsHQ in the launch of #MambaRISE. This mobile app allows you to train endlessly to perfect your ability to recognize pitches.
RISE now: pic.twitter.com/dy8Jtc2my2
— Pete Alonso (@Pete_Alonso20) September 10, 2019
The app was tested on all different levels of players — from youth travel teams to minor leaguers. Bryant himself had final sign off on the look and functionality of Mamba Rise.
There are four different pitches (fastball, changeup, curveball and slider) and three different settings (high school, college and pro). Alonso believes it will help players in areas of the U.S. where baseball can’t be played year-round.
“It has the potential to be extremely beneficial,” he said. “There are different pitch sequences. It’s a challenge. And if you don’t challenge yourself then you really can’t get better. So I think it’s really important.”
The app will eventually launch basketball and soccer components too, each with the goal of sharpening an athlete’s focus on the details that can help separate a good player from a great one.
Including baseball is especially interesting at a time when baseball is trying to figure out ways to get more youngsters playing their game. It may end up that baseball lucked into Bryant being one of the people pushing young athletes toward baseball.
Imagine a world in which someone downloads the app because Bryant’s name is attached to it, tries the baseball aspect and discovers they’re really good. It’s not the worst idea for garnering more interest at a time when America’s Pastime is eager to engage the “can I play on your phone?” generation.
While there’s some buy-in on the pro level with Alonso and a group of others, the real goal is to impact young athletes. The goals, according to a spokesperson from the Mamba Sports Academy, is to limit wear-and-tear while strengthening baseball IQs.
Imagine that: It might just be Bryant who helps save baseball.
Yahoo Sports’ Mike Mazzeo contributed to this post.
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