DJ Sixsmith 

NBA Hall of Fame photographer Andy Bernstein is one of the few people in the NBA world that can say he’s been with Kobe Bryant since day one.

Bernstein met Bryant in October 1996 during his first media day with the Los Angles Lakers when he was just 18 years old. The Staples Center photographer and the franchise’s star player forged a bond that’s lasted over 20 years and they turned that into the new book “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play.” Bernstein will never forget meeting the Black Mamba for the first time.

“This kid had a lot to prove and he had this air about him and this confidence that was visible,” said Bernstein in an interview with CBS Local. “I met him and he said he had my posters in his room growing up. Who reads the photo credit on a poster? We established a great relationship from his rookie year to his final year 20 years later. It was a once in a career relationship.”

Bernstein has covered the NBA since 1983 and has documented every NBA Finals for the last 30 years. In the book, Bryant uses Bernstein’s pictures to describe his routines and give his thoughts on the guys he played against and with. One of the best parts of the book comes from an iconic photo of Kobe and Michael Jordan where Bryant details how he changed his defensive style after this encounter.

“It’s humbling. What’s even more humbling is the fact that he told me that he used my photos to improve his game,” said Bernstein. “And to learn about other players. When he was a teenager, he would study everything about the photo. Everything from positioning to how a guy is guarding another guy. He incorporated that into his game. He learned about himself and how to play against another guy.”

Bernstein had to find photos that were very specific to what Bryant wanted to talk about. While the NBA Hall of Famer has been all over the world, Staples Center will always hold a special place in his heart.

“Staples is an amazing place,” said Bernstein. “If you go back to before Staples was built, that was a part of LA that you wouldn’t even drive through. It’s the mecca of LA. We have four professional teams playing in our arena. My group is responsible for everything that happens on campus and there’s an incredible vibe there.”

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