Editor’s note: Following the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, STACK remembers his legacy as an athlete whose incredible drive and work ethic inspired millions. This article was originally published in June 2015.
Stories abound about Kobe Bryant’s strong work ethic, but you need both visual and anecdotal evidence to truly appreciate Bryant’s obsessive nature when it comes to the sport he’s played for the past 19 seasons. Whether he’s getting to the gym at 5:30 a.m. to work out by himself before a full day of practice or not leaving the gym until he’s made 400 baskets, here are a few instances that illustrate just how hard Kobe works.
Bryant’s Epic Pre-Game Workouts
When Jay Williams was a rookie with the Chicago Bulls, he got especially pumped for a visit to the Staples Center to compete against Kobe’s Los Angeles Lakers, who at the time had won three straight NBA Championships. Williams arrived at the arena four hours before tip-off, determined to get 400 makes during his pre-game workout. Kobe, of course, refused to let Williams walk away believing he’d outworked him.
Bryant’s Never-Ending Conditioning
In a thread posted on reddit, an athletic trainer detailed a story of being called to Las Vegas to help Team USA train and work on their conditioning before they headed across the pond to London for the 2012 Olympics. The trainer gave Bryant his phone number and told him to give him a call any time he wanted to get in some extra training. This is what happened next:
The night before the first scrimmage I remember I had just watched Casablanca for the first time and it was about 3:30 a.m. 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 a.m.
“Yeah sure, I’ll see you in the facility in a bit.”
It took me about 20 minutes to get my gear and out of the hotel. When I arrived and opened the door 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 5:00 a.m.
We did some conditioning work for the next hour and 15 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 on the floor again at about 11:00 a.m. 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.”
800 makes before a practice even starts. The word “beastly” doesn’t even do justice to that type of commitment to basketball.
Bryant Attempts to Make 400 Shots Every Practice
Bryant has been known to count every single shot he hits at practice, and he won’t leave the gym until he hits at least 400. In this clip from a practice before the Lakers began their 2011 season, you get a sense that it might not take Bryant long to achieve what seems like an insane goal. For a four-minute stretch in the above video, Bryant misses fewer than 10 shots while putting up at least 150 3-pointers from around the arc. He gets cold at the end, but that’s beside the point. His form and consistency are near perfect on each and every shot.
Bryant Will Outwork You Even with a Broken Hand
John Celestand, a teammate of Bryant’s in the midst of the Lakers’ threepeat, tells a story that gives you a sense of the depth of Bryant’s obsession with perfecting his craft. Celestand always tried to beat Bryant to the gym during the season, but his attempts proved futile. No matter how early he arrived at the Lakers practice facility, Bryant was already there. After Bryant broke his wrist in a pre-season game against the Washington Wizards, Celestand was convinced he would finally break his streak of coming in second. It was too good to be true. From Celestand’s blog:
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 Kobe) 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, dribbling and shooting with his left.
As the next couple of days of practice passed, I would glance over as Phil Jackson was talking and see Kobe on the side going full speed and pulling up with his left. He was conducting an all-out practice with himself. Lakers trainer Gary Viti had to come in and tell Kobe to take a rest. But when Viti left, Kobe was at it again.
Not even broken bones could stop Kobe from outworking his entire team.
Bryant’s Desert Bike Ride
Another crazy Kobe Bryant workout moment, again from the USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas: on the night before the first day of camp in 2012, Bryant decided he wanted to go on a nighttime bike ride through the desert, complete with headlamps. Via ESPN, Bryant and his trainer, Tim Grover, hopped on a couple of bikes and pedaled 40 miles through the night, ending their ride at 2:00 a.m. They were back in the gym getting shots up by 7:30 a.m.
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