Sunday was a sad day for many basketball fans. Sunday was the day that all-time great Kobe Bryant decided that this season was going to be his last. Almost everyone saw it coming and him retiring isn’t what surprised people, how he announced it is what surprised people. He didn’t wait until the end of the season, but for the end of a game against the Indiana Pacers where the Lakers lost and Kobe scored 13 points on 4-20 shooting.
“This season is all I have left to give. My heart can take the pounding / my mind can handle the grind / but my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”
Kobe wrote that in his Dear Basketball poem for The Players’ Tribune and I got goosebumps from it. If you have a few minutes, take the time to read his poem. It’s beautiful.
The things that Kobe did on the court physically and statistically will forever be enshrined in basketball history and later this week I’ll publish a post recapping his illustrious career. In this post however, I’m going to talk about three things that Kobe did that are the cause of those great physical feats, statistics and accolades.
Work Ethic – Kobe is the definition of a workaholic, devoting all of his time to refining his craft. Not just on his athleticism or jumpshot, but on the details. It’s said that he would take 30 minutes to an hour loosening up his fingers and ankles to make sure they felt perfect.
Everyone’s heard the stories about Kobe: how he woke up a Team USA trainer at 3:30 AM to workout during the Olympics and when the trainer got to the gym, Kobe was in a full sweat; or how Tim Grover would train him two or three times a day for multiple hours; also how he needs to hit 800 shots before he even considers ending his workout. But there was one story that really stood out to me and it’s from one of Phil Jackson‘s books (I believe it was The Last Season, but don’t quote me on it) where Jackson says that in the summers of the early 2000s, Kobe would make 2000 shots a day. 2000. If that’s the case, he made a career’s worth of field goals in six days. Phil Jackson also said that Kobe goes “beyond” how Michael Jordan would train.
Confidence – Easily could be replaced with arrogance, but that’s how Kobe’s personality is. Towards basketball at least. On the basketball court he would go out and attempt to dominate and humiliate you, which he was usually did and he expected it to be like that every time he played in a basketball game. Paul Pierce said he’s one the toughest players he’s ever guarded because of his outrageous level of confidence and “serial killer” mentality. Kobe wants to take every shot and he expects every shot to go in. Missed shots don’t impact him, either. This season he’s shooting an astonishingly-low 30% from the field but he’s still shooting 17 shots a game. His confidence level is much attributed to how hard he works on the court.
Love for the game – Kobe Bryant has a serious emotional connection to the game of basketball. He’s been open about how much he loves this game for giving him the opportunity to live out his dream. The blood, sweat, tears, long hours in the gym, wins, losses and everything else are what made Kobe love this game, and are what’s going to make it a very somber goodbye to one of the best that the NBA has ever seen.
There will never be another Kobe and no one should attempt to be another Kobe. There will be players who put up better numbers and have better physical skills, but the intangibles that Kobe was blessed with are what separates him from the crowd.
We’ll miss you, Kobe.
(featured image via Zennie Abraham / Flickr)