- Jason Miller/Getty Images
- Kobe Bryant died January 26 at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash that also killed his 13-year-old daughter.
- Bryant had been known for his work-ethic, which helped him win numerous NBA championships, titles, and even an Academy Award.
- Fellow NBA stars, like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James, had mentioned Bryant’s intense work ethic.
- Read more on Business Insider.
Kobe Bryant, who died at age 41 on January 26 following a helicopter crash, was well-known for his work ethic. Just hours before Bryant’s death, LeBron James remarked that he had been inspired by Bryant’s work ethic throughout his own NBA career.
In Bryant’s two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant already had championships, scoring titles, and MVPs to his name, but with basketball in his rearview mirror, Bryant turned to filmmaking and in 2018 won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
Tales of Bryant’s work ethic have become folklore. From his early morning workouts, to marathon shooting sessions, to a relentless desire to improve himself, here are some of our favorite examples of Bryant’s work ethic.
Tony Manfred contributed to this report.
Michael Jordan, Kobe’s idol, said Kobe was the only person to ever approach Jordan’s work ethic.
- Vince Bucci/Getty
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.”
Source: LA Times
He used to show up to practice at 5 a.m. and leave at 7 a.m. … in high school.
Source: Sports Illustrated
He’d make high school teammates play one-on-one games to 100.
- Getty Images
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.
Former Lakers player and head coach Byron Scott said he once found an 18-year-old Bryant shooting in a dark gym two hours before practice.
Scott told Business Insider:
“I heard the ball bouncing. No lights were on. Practice was at about 11, it was probably about 9, 9:30. And I go out to the court and I look, and there’s Kobe Bryant. He’s out there shooting in the dark. And I stood there for probably about ten seconds, and I said, ‘This kid is gonna be great.'”
Former NBA player and Lakers teammate John Celestand said Kobe was always the first player in the gym, even when he was hurt.
- REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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.”
Source: John Celestand
He once played left-handed because he injured his right shoulder.
- Stacy Revere/Getty
He actually made one of the shots, too, after insisting he return to the game.
Shaquille O’Neal said Kobe used to practice without a ball.
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 worked out harder and earlier than even the NBA’s best players.
- Stephen Dunn/Getty
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.”
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.
- Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
Source: Ball is Life
He used to keep players after practice as “guinea pigs.”
- Harry How/Getty
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.
An NBA scout said in 2008: “Allen Iverson loves to play when the lights come on. Kobe loves doing the s— before the lights come on.”
- Jed Jacobsohn/ALLSPORT/Getty Images
He was all about improvement, even in the tiniest of ways. 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 decided to lose 16 pounds for the Olympics in 2012, citing the need to keep his knees pain-free.
- Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Kobe was 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 iced his knees for 20 minutes three times per day and did acupuncture so he wouldn’t get hurt.
- Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Unfortunately, it didn’t always work, as Kobe had to sit through numerous injuries late in his career.
He was strict about what he ate.
- Darren Abate/Getty
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 watch film of himself at halftime.
- Sean M. Haffey/Getty
According to ESPN’s Jackie McMullan in 2010:
“He often corrals teammates, fires up the laptop, and shows them precisely how they can carve out easier shots for themselves.”
He went 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 says he “SHATTERED” the normal timetable for Achilles surgery recovery
- Jeff Gross/Getty
He once completely scrapped a documentary about himself and started from scratch because he didn’t like the way it turned out.
- Stephen Dunn/Getty
He says he taught himself to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on piano by ear.
Source: Kobe Bryant/Twitter
Bryant’s most recent obsession was “storytelling.”
- Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty
Bryant developed his own “Sesame Street”-inspired show called “Musecage,” and then made an animated short documentary called “Dear Basketball,” that took home the Oscar in 2018. Bryant called it more fulfilling than a championship.
He cold-called business people and entrepreneurs to learn more about them and the secrets to success.
- Hannah Foslien/Getty
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.”
Billionaire investor Chris Sacca said Kobe was relentless in learning more about investing after Sacca told him to do his homework.
- Jerod Harris/Getty
Sacca told Bill Simmons:
“For the next few months my phone never stops buzzing in the middle of the night. It’s Kobe, reading this article, checking out this tweet, following this guy, diving into this Ted Talk, diving into the Y Combinator Demo Day stuff. And I’m getting these texts, literally two or three in the morning, and my wife is like, ‘Are you having an affair with Kobe Bryant? What is happening here?'”
Source: Bill Simmons podcast
He texted business leaders at all hours of the day, including 3 a.m., to pick their brains.
- Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty
Bryant told ESPN’s Darren Rovell:
“We are obsessive,” Bryant said. “We wouldn’t want to be doing anything other than what we are doing. That’s where obsession comes in – when you care about something 24 hours a day.
This quote about how he wanted 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.”
- Harry How/Getty Images