1. Robert (The USA Trainer)
The night before the first scrimmage I remember I was just watched “Casablanca” for the first time and it was about 3:30 AM. I lay in bed, slowly fading away when I hear my cell ring. It was Kobe. I nervously picked up.
“Hey, uhh Rob, I hope I’m not disturbing anything right?”
“Uhh no, what’s up Kob?”
“Just wondering if you could just help me out with some conditioning work, that’s all.”
I checked my clock. 4:15 AM.
“Yeah sure, I’ll see you in the facility in a bit.”
It took me about twenty minutes to get my gear and out of the hotel. When I arrived and opened the room to the main practice floor I saw Kobe. Alone. He was drenched in sweat as if he had just taken a swim. It wasn’t even 5AM.
We did some conditioning work for the next hour and fifteen minutes. Then we entered the weight room, where he would do a multitude of strength training exercises for the next 45 minutes. After that we parted ways and he went back to the practice floor to shoot. I went back to the hotel and crashed. Wow.
I was expected to be at the floor again at about 11 AM. I woke up feeling sleepy, drowsy, and almost pretty much every side effect of sleep deprivation. Thanks, Kobe. I had a bagel and headed to the practice facility.
This next part I remember very vividly. All the Team USA players were there, feeling good for the first scrimmage. LeBron was talking to Carmelo if I remember correctly and Coach Krzyzewski was trying to explain something to Kevin Durant. On the right side of the practice facility was Kobe by himself shooting jumpers. And this is how our next conversation went — I went over to him, patted him on the back and said, “Good work this morning.”
“Like, the conditioning. Good work.”
“Oh. Yeah, thanks Rob. I really appreciate it.”
“So when did you finish?”
“Getting your shots up. What time did you leave the facility?”
“Oh just now. I wanted 800 makes so yeah, just now.”
My jaw dropped. Mother of holy God. It was then that I realized that there’s no surprise to why he’s been as effective as he was last season. Every story about his dedication, every quote that he’s said about hard work all came together and hit me like a train. It’s no surprise to me now that he’s dunking on players ten years younger than him and it wasn’t a surprise to me earlier this year when he led the league in scoring.
He was so young and so immature in some ways, but I can tell you this: everything Kobe is doing now, he told me all the way back then he was going to do it. We were sitting on the bus once and he told me, “I’m going to be the number one scorer for the Lakers, I’m going to win five or six championships, and I’m going to be the best player in the game.” I was like, “Okay, whatever.” Then he looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m going to be the Will Smith of the NBA.”
3. Kobe Bryant and the 40-mile bike ride
Interesting tidbit from an article on the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne:
Blake Griffin needs to know if the story is true. Ever since he first heard it last July, he’s been obsessed with it.
“The first night we all got into Las Vegas last summer for the USA Basketball camp, I heard Kobe went on some 40-mile bike ride at night through the desert,” Griffin says. “Forty miles? At night? You think it’s true?”
Before I can answer, Griffin continues:
“When I found out about that bike ride, I was so tempted to ask him if I could go next time.”
This is my favorite part about Kobe: you assume this story is true. Forty miles in the desert? You don’t even question it.
…in this moment, all Griffin wants to talk about is whether or not Kobe Bryant really got on a bike and rode 40 miles through the desert last July.
“I love that stuff,” Griffin says. “I love all those stories.”
The story Griffin heard turns out to be true. And it goes something like this: Bryant told his longtime trainer, Tim Grover, that he wanted to add in bike training to his summer conditioning. Grover researched a trail in Las Vegas, rented three bikes — one for Bryant, one for himself and one for Bryant’s security guard — and on the night before the first day of practice, they each put on headlamps and headed out to the trail and rode.
“We finished up around 2 a.m.” Grover said. “And we were back in the gym working out by 7:30 in the morning.”
And that’s just it. To Blake Griffin, and most of the NBA, these are just stories.
To Kobe Bryant, that’s a Tuesday night.
4. He’d make high school teammates play one-on-one games to 100
Kobe played a bench warmer to 100 multiple times when he was in high school. In Kobe’s worst game, he still won 100-12.
5. He used to practice by himself without a ball, says Shaq
Shaq wrote in his book: “You’d walk in there and he’d be cutting and grunting and motioning like he was dribbling and shooting — except there was no ball. I thought it was weird, but I’m pretty sure it helped him.”
6. Caron Butler
Caron Butler says he’s grateful he spent a year in Los Angeles as Kobe Bryant’s teammate and work out partner.
“I say that’s the best thing that ever could have happened for me personally for my career,” Butler said. “To play alongside a guy like that, see his preparation, see what it takes to get to that level, that’s why I was able to be so good in Washington because I took everything I learned from him under his wing.”
Butler played in 77 games in 2004-05 with the Lakers. He averaged a then career-high (by a tick) 15.5 points and then career-high 5.8 rebounds. His free throw shooting improved, too.
“Work ethic,” Butler said. “He comes to the gym 6:30, 7 in the morning, gets shots every day, a rhythm. Afterward hits the weight room, works out in the summer, studying film, critiquing guys, watching their tendencies, picking things up … Just studying the game with him taught me a lot.”
Butler and Bryant talk every couple of weeks, and when Butler was traded to Dallas, Bryant was quick with a call.
“He told me he was happy for me and happy to see me in a situation to be able to legitimately compete for a title,” Butler said.
But Wednesday will be a different conversation.
“You always hear that he’s ready to compete,” Butler said. “He’s happy but at the same time once we get on the court all bets are off with Kobe. He’s going to bring it, then hug me afterwards. That’s how it is. It’s business.”
7. Kevin Durant
“We had the day off, but they said we could get some shots up if we wanted, so I decided to head over to the gym with [Oklahoma City teammate] Jeff Green.
“Kobe [Bryant] was the only guy on the bus to the gym, and that spoke volumes to me — he’s the best player in the game, yet he’s always willing to come work on his game, so that kind of motivated me and Jeff,” Durant said. “He went by himself, he got a lot of shots up, and by the time he was done you could see he had gotten better over that hour. Like I said, it was a big inspiration to me and Jeff.”
8. John Celestand
“The first time I began to understand why he was the best was in the pre-season. In a game against the Wizards, Kobe broke the wrist on his shooting hand. He was always the first person to practice every day, arriving at least an hour and a half early. This would infuriate me because I wanted to be the first person to practice, just as I had always been at Villanova and Piscataway High in New Jersey. To add insult to injury, I lived only 10 minutes from the practice facility — while Kobe was at least 35 minutes away.
“I am ashamed to say that I was excited the day after his injury because I knew that there was no way that No. 8 (as former Laker point guard Tyronn Lue called him) would be the first to practice, if he would even be there at all.
“As I walked through the training room, I became stricken with fear when I heard a ball bouncing. No, no, it couldn’t be! Yes it could. Kobe was already in a full sweat with a cast on his right arm and dribbling and shooting with his left.”
9. OJ Mayo’s work out
One of the most interesting parts of the story comes when Kobe discusses something that he did to O.J. Mayo back in 2007 when Mayo, then the No. 1 high school player in the country, attended the Kobe Basketball Academy. According to Kobe, Mayo asked him if the two could work out together at some point during the camp, and Kobe agreed. “Yeah,” Kobe replied, “I’ll pick you up at three.”
Three o’clock came and went, though, and the next day, Mayo asked Kobe where he was the prior afternoon. “Three in the morning,” Kobe replied to him, “not three in the afternoon.”
10. Laron Profit
“You know it was so funny, my first experience when I was out in LA, me and Kwame Brown got traded to the Lakers [in Summer of 2005]. We were playing a pick-up game before the season started, we were playing 3-on-3, and it was game point.
“Kobe had the ball and it came off, Kwame knocked the ball away from him.
“Again [this was] a pick-up game, September, nothing on the line. And the ball rolled to half court.
“Kobe then ran to half-court, dived under Kwame’s legs with the ball for about 10 feet, picked the ball up, came back down, made some incredible move, then hit the game-winning shot to end the pick-up game.
“I walked off the court, and I called my mom, and I said, “I think I’ve just seen the second best player ever [behind Jordan].”
“But then around him, you understand that nothing he does is by accident, that all this is a result of hours and hours and hours of preparation. So that when he gets into a situation in a game, in a playoffs game, in a Finals game, his confidence comes from his prepration.
“He once told me at a halftime of a game, he was struggling, I think we were playing Seattle [Sonics] and he was struggling, and I asked him, “How do you feel?” and he said, “I feel great! The second half… the second half. Hey Prof, I work too hard. These shots HAVE to fall eventually because I’ve worked too hard, I’ve shot too many shots.”
“So his belief in himself… when we look at it and see it as arrogance, some people see as may have too much confidence. It’s really just a result of how hard he works, of how much preparation time he puts in his game. That once he steps on the court, he really believes that he will be successful. And that’s what I think I took away from him more than anything else, it’s that your belief in yourself has to come from your confidence and your preparation.
11. Excerpt from Shaq Uncut
“Kobe stands up and goes face-to-face with me and says, “You always said you’re my big brother, you’d do anything for me, and then this Colorado thing happens and you never even called me.” I did call him. … So here we are now, and we find out he really was hurt that we didn’t stand behind him. That was something new. I didn’t think he gave a rat’s ass about us either way. “Well, I thought you’d publicly support me, at least,” Kobe said. “You’re supposed to be my friend.” Brian Shaw chimed in with “Kobe, why would you think that? Shaq had all these parties and you never showed up for any of them. We invited you to dinner on the road and you didn’t come. Shaq invited you to his wedding and you weren’t there. Then you got married and didn’t invite any of us. And now you are in the middle of this problem, this sensitive situation, and now you want all of us to step up for you. We don’t even know you.” …
12. The Pandas Friend
What are your thoughts on Kobe?
I thought you’d never ask. We’ll be on the plane, playing cards. Kobe will walk up, stop the game and say, “Ron, come to the back of the plane.” Then, he’ll show me some tape and say, “Look at this. Here’s what you need to do.” I’ll go back to my seat, and then he’ll walk up to Shannon Brown, stop the card game and do the same thing. And it doesn’t matter if you’re sleeping. He’ll wake you up and show you things you’ve never thought about. He puts so much time and passion into the game. I have no problem following somebody who’s worth being followed, who works as hard as me. I will follow Kobe anywhere.