For Bryant, it hasn’t been a storybook ending, struggling with injuries in recent years, and his game has been affected this season. Nonetheless, the remainder of the season will be a celebration of Kobe’s brilliant career.
One of the reasons it’s all been possible — Kobe’s ridiculous work ethic. From marathon workouts, playing teammates to 100 after practice, and refusing to eat the junk food he loves, these are some of our favorite examples of Kobe’s drive to be the best.
He works out harder and earlier than even the NBA’s best players.
Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade recounted a hilarious story to ESPN’s Michael Wallace about the 2008 Olympics. They said Kobe was up at the crack of dawn working out while everyone was sleeping.
“We’re in Las Vegas and we all come down for team breakfast at the start of the whole training camp,” Bosh said. “And Kobe comes in with ice on his knees and with his trainers and stuff. He’s got sweat drenched through his workout gear. And I’m like, ‘It’s 8 o’clock in the morning, man. Where in the hell is he coming from?'”
Wade added, “Everybody else just woke up… We’re all yawning, and he’s already three hours and a full workout into his day.”
He decided to lose 16 pounds for the Olympics in 2012.
Kobe has never been out of shape, but he decided to change himself as a precautionary measure. He told the Guardian:
“With summer basketball leading directly into the season — and I’m expecting to play until next June — I have to take some load off my knees. I’ve got to shave some of this weight.”
He used to show up to practice at 5 a.m. and leave at 7 a.m. … in high school.
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.
Former NBA player and Lakers teammate John Celestand said Kobe was always the first player in the gym, even when he was hurt.
Celestand once wrote that during the 1999-2000 season, Kobe broke his wrist. Celestand was excited, because he thought with Kobe injured, he could beat him to the gym in the morning, particularly because Bryant lived over 30 minutes away from the practice facility.
Instead, when he got in the next morning, “Kobe was already in a full sweat with a cast on his right arm and dribbling and shooting with his left.”
He had Nike shave a few millimeters off the bottom of his shoes in 2008 to get ‘a hundredth of a second better reaction time’
He’s gone on some very strict diets.
He eliminated sugar and pizza and only eats lean meat.
He told ESPN: “There aren’t really any supplements that I’m taking from that perspective. What I’ve done really is just train really hard and watch my diet. I think that’s the thing that catches guys most. They don’t do self assessing.”
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.”
He cold-calls business people and entrepreneurs to learn more about them and the secrets to success.
Bryant told Bloomberg: “I’ll just cold call people and pick their brain about stuff. Some of the questions that I’ll ask will seem really, really simple and stupid, quite honestly, for them. But if I don’t know, I don’t know. You have to ask. I’ll just do that. I’ll just ask questions and I want to know more about how they build their businesses and how they run their companies and how they see the world.”
He watches film of himself at halftime.
According to ESPN’s Jackie McMullen in 2010:
“He often corrals teammates, fires up the laptop, and shows them precisely how they can carve out easier shots for themselves.”
From Roland Lazenby, author of “Michael Jordan: The Life”: “He said Kobe had done that work to deserve the comparison. He says Kobe’s the only one to have done the work.”
He goes through super intense workouts on game days.
From ESPN’s Rick Reilly: “Among a dozen other drills, Bryant does suicide push-ups. At the top of the pushup, he launches himself off the mat so hard that both his feet come off the ground and his hands slap his pecs. He does three sets of seven of these. This makes me turn away and whimper softly.”
He keeps players after practice as “guinea pigs.”
In 2008, Sports Illustrated reported that Kobe will keep random players after practice so that he can try out new moves on them.
Similar to what he did to bench-warmers in high school.
This quote from an NBA scout in 2008: ‘Allen Iverson loves to play when the lights come on. Kobe loves doing the s— before the lights come on.”
According to a Team USA trainer, Kobe once held a workout from 4:15 a.m. to 11 a.m., refusing to leave the gym until he made 800 shots.
He once completely scrapped a documentary about himself and started from scratch because he didn’t like the way it turned out.
This quote about how he wants to be remembered: “To think of me as a person that’s overachieved, that would mean a lot to me. That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could.”