As Kobe Bryant Turns 41, These Insane Work Ethic Stories Reveal Ways He Became Great

Kobe Bryant stories that prove his work ethic has always been incredible

Kobe Bryant is one of the best basketball players on the planet. If you were to put a Mount Rushmore of ballers out there, the Los Angeles Lakers’ legend’s face may just be on it, given the fact he won five NBA titles and racked up 33,643 career points — which is good enough for third on the league’s all-time scoring list.

What’s even more impressive is what Bryant has done since retiring from basketball in 2016. In addition to the sports accolades, Kobe’s won an Academy Award for his animated short film “Dear Basketball,” and continues to inspire people with his book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play. It’s really incredible to see a superstar athlete transition from hoops success to business success so seamlessly.

But, like most successful people out there, Kobe Bryant hasn’t accomplished all that he has by sheer talent alone. Sure, that’s helped, but really separates the basketball icon from other people is his work ethic — which is legendary.

As Bryant turns 41 years old, we look at 41 stories that prove just how insane his passion and desire to be the best really is. So let these serve as motivation for you to roll up your sleeves, push yourself and achieve everything you want to.

Kobe Bryant’s 40-Mile Bike Ride

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.”

Kobe Used To Challenge High School Teammates To One-On-One Games To 100

Talk about exhausting, right? Kobe Bryant didn’t need a quick game to 10, but, instead, used to play a benchwarmer on his high school team in one-one-one in games to 100. As the legend goes, even in Bryant’s worst game, he still won 100-12.

Shaquille O’Neal Says Bryant Used To Practice Without A Basketball To Get In Shape

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.”

Kobe Bryant’s Game Day Pushups Were More Intense Than An Earthquake

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.”

Bryant’s Always Studied Himself And Teammates (Even During Halftime Of Games)

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.”

Kobe Bryant’s Work Ethic Even Impressed 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.”

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When Kobe Bryant Nearly Led His Team From An Absurd Comeback, Per Tyson Chandler

“The thing that makes him so unstoppable is that he never stops coming. This year we were up in New Orleans by like 12 in the 4th quarter with 5-6 minutes left, and we pretty much had the game in control. And (Kobe) was there on the free throw line and he was like ‘You know I ain’t going to let us lose right?’, and I looked back at him and I was like ‘What!? Man I ain’t letting my team lose!’. And he was like ‘Alright but I just know I ain’t going to let my team lose.’ And I went back at him ‘Well I ain’t going to let my team lose!’

 

“Right after that, man… he ran off like 15 straight points on us. And I was looking at the scoreboard going ‘Come on, let the time run down’, and I’m like he can’t beat us single-handedly especially after I was just sitting there talking crap back and forth to him.

 

“We ended up winning the game, but he almost beat us! He almost beat us by himself. But his drive, looking into his eyes, some guys can say ‘Yeah we gonna win the game’.

When Bryant Changed The Work Ethic Of His Team USA Teammates

After training for three weeks together before heading to Beijing, former U.S. Olympic teammate Carlos Boozer noticed the entire roster had adopted Bryant’s routine.

 

“We all clung to it,” said Boozer, who later played with Bryant as a member of the Lakers in 2014-15 and recently agreed to a deal to play in China. “It soon became our workout, not just his workout.”

When Hall Of Fame Center Hakeem Olajuwon Helped Bryant Perfect His Post Moves

Just a week before training camp began in September 2009, the Olajuwon gave Bryant a two-hour step-by-step lesson on everything from head fakes and ball fakes to spin moves and jab steps.

 

“It was an honor for me to have the opportunity to work with him, and I want to make him proud of what I’ve learned,” Bryant said. “I have wanted to work with him in the past, but the timing was right this year. I got a chance to work with the greatest post player ever. I’ve always been a student of the game, and he was very patient with me.”

Michael Jordan Compared Kobe Bryant’s Work Ethic To His Own

From Roland Lazenby, author of “Michael Jordan: The Life”, per L.A. Times: “He said Kobe had done that work to deserve the comparison. He says Kobe’s the only one to have done the work.”

During His Rookie Year, Bryant Was Found Getting Shots In… In A Dark Gym

Per 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.'”

Even With A Cast On His Hand, Bryant Was Still Getting In Work

According to former teammate John Celestand: 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.

 

“Kobe was already in a full sweat with a cast on his right arm and dribbling and shooting with his left.”

Bryant Shot Left-Handed During A Game After Injuring His Right Shoulder

He actually made one of the shots, too, after insisting he return to the game.

Dwyane Wade And Chris Bosh Were Sleeping As Kobe Bryant Was Working Out

Per ESPN: “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.”

Bryant Was Obsessed With Perfection

According to a piece from Ball is Life, a Team USA trainer said that Kobe Bryant once held a workout from 4:15 a.m. to 11 a.m., refusing to leave the gym until he made 800 shots.

Bryant Would Use Teammates As Guinea Pigs After Practice

Per Sports Illustrated: In 2008, Sports Illustrated reported that Kobe will keep random players after practice so that he can try out new moves on them

Scouts Praised Kobe Bryant For Doing More Than Other NBA Superstars

Per Sports Illustrated: 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.”

O.J. Mayo Once Confused 3 A.M. For 3 P.M. When Training With Kobe Bryant

Per CBS Sports: In 2007, O.J. Mayo was the top recruit at Bryant’s Kobe Basketball Academy. Mayo asked Kobe to work out with him and Bryant graciously accepted. Kobe said he’d pick him up at three. After Bryant failed to show up, Mayo asked Kobe what happened. “Three in the morning,” Kobe replied. “Not three in the afternoon.”

Bryant Stuck To A Strict Diet To Maintain His Advantage And Physique

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 Wasn’t Going To Cut Corners, Even When It Came To Telling His Own Story

Per Business Insider, Kobe Bryant once trashed a documentary about himself and started from scratch after being unsatisfied with how the original one turned out.

Kobe Bryant Will Cold-Call Entrepreneurs And Successful Business People To Get Advice

Per 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 Bryant Studied Hard AF About Investing

Per Bill Simmons’ Podcast: “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?'”

Kobe Bryant Goes Above And Beyond Showcasing His Passion In Everything He Does

Per ESPN: “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.

When Bryant Taught Jay Williams What It Really Meant To Put In Work

During a regular season game against the Championship Lakers, Jay took the court for practice four hours before the game against Lakers, but he was shocked to see Kobe practicing already. Williams practiced for an hour and after he was done practicing, he sat down, but he still heard the ball bouncing.

 

Jay was shocked, because Kobe had been in a dead sweat when he got there for practice, and he was still going after Jay got done. He also added that Kobe was not practicing lazy or nonchalant moves, but full-on game moves.

 

Kobe scored 40 points that night and torched Jay and the Bulls. Williams therefore decided to go ask Bryant why he was in the gym for so long. When Jay finally asked him, the Black Mamba replied, “Because I saw you come in and I wanted you to know that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, I am willing to work harder than you. You inspire me to be better.”

 

Jay also revealed that it was the first time that he saw this level of competitiveness and he told himself, “I need to start doing more.”

Shaquille O’Neal Describes Bryant As A ‘Scientific Dawg’

Per L.A. Times: “Kobe is a scientific dawg,” O’Neal wrote. “He works out every day, practices every day. Most of the other stars are just dawgs, not scientific dawgs. Kobe will always have the edge because of his range and killer instinct. LeBron has the killer instinct, but he can’t shoot like Kobe can.”

Jamal Crawford Heard Kobe Bryant Once Practiced Just One Shot For An Hour Straight

Per The Players’ Tribune: “I heard one time in a workout that he practiced a shot for an hour. The same shot. For one hour. And it wasn’t like a three-pointer, it was a little shot in the mid-range area. Do you know how tedious that is? Do you know how locked in you have to be to do one shot for an hour? To trick your mind that way? That’s unbelievable.”

Bryant’s Former Teammate, Tony Gaffney, Detailed Kobe’s Routine

Per Basketball Insiders: If the Lakers had a 10:30 a.m. practice, Bryant would be in the gym at 6:00, take his daughters Natalia and Gianna to school at 8:00, then come back around 9:00 to shoot some more.

 

“No one would have any idea that he’s been in the gym working for three-to-four hours,” Gaffney said

Kobe Bryant Would Count The 400 Shots He Put Up During Practice

Per Sports Illustrated: Later, as he toweled down and sat for an interview, he was asked if he had a certain shooting routine.

 

“Absolutely,” he said. “I go from spot to spot. Today I quit when I made 400 shots.”

 

How do you know?

 

“What do you mean, How do I know? I know because I counted them.”

Former Team USA Teammate Carlos Boozer Described Bryant’s Unmatched Dedication

“You know what it was for me? And me and him are good friends, but I hadn’t really trained with him — is how hard he works. We saw his dedication to the game. He would get in the gym, lift weights, he would go over to the gym, get shots up before practice, go through the whole practice, and that was his routine every day. He’s not great by accident is my point. He puts the work in. And I think what I learned about Kobe is he’s so hungry to be good, he puts the work in. I just think his hunger and his determination is what I was most impressed with.”

Syracuse And Former Team USA Coach Jim Boeheim Described Bryant As The ‘Hardest-Working Player’ He’s Ever Been Around

“Kobe, from day one, is just the hardest-working player I’ve ever been around. He just does an unbelievable job. He came in, he worked out before practice and practiced harder than anybody and then worked out afterwards and continued the whole trip. The first trip we are qualifying and then the Olympics themselves. He’s just an unbelievable competitor and in practice goes 100 percent every day in practice and that brings everybody else up to that same level. He was a huge part of us being ready in the Olympics to be able to win.”

Former NBA All-Star Gary Payton Recounts Kobe Bryant’s High Expectations For Himself

Per Phil Star: “Kobe 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.'”

Former Teammate Laron Profit Couldn’t Believe Bryant’s Determination In A 3-On-3 Game

Per StationCaster: “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].”

How Kobe Bryant Is ‘An Alien’ Because Of The Things He Does

Per Complex: Stu Lantz said, “​I tease him all the time, about not being from this planet. I call him a semi-alien. Because some of the things he does, the way he prepares, the way he can play through pain. It’s not usual. He hurt his shoulder in Minnesota and they told him he was going to be out like 6 weeks. I think he was out like a week. That’s not human.”​

Bryant’s Unwillingness To Ever Give Up… Even If It’s A Ping-Pong Game

Per Complex: Mike Trudell said, “Inside this room there’s a Ping-Pong table and some of us are playing, and I grew up with a Ping-Pong table, so I’m pretty good.

 

“At some point, Kobe makes a comment about one of the players I had just beaten. So I said, ‘Kobe if you want to, I’m happy to give some to you next.’ So, we play the first game and you can tell he can play, but he’s not a super experienced Ping-Pong player, so I sense a couple weaknesses and beat him rather handedly the first game. He is talking a bit of shit, mostly just calling me a MF-er.

 

“But, the reason I’m telling this story is not as a humble brag but because during the entire game, he was literally watching every point and learning as the game is going on. So, we get done with the game, and he wants to go again. Now, I beat him again the second time, but he got much closer.

 

“Within 5 minutes, he was taking the Ping-Pong game so seriously, and I thought, this is why he’s so great at basketball. I’ve never competed against anybody in anything, and I played a D1 sport, that felt as intense as that Ping-Pong game.”​

The Time Bryant Went From Drinking Beer To Working Out Within A Few Hours… And Winning A Championship Later That Day

Per Complex: Arash Markazi said, “2009 NBA Finals in Orlando, going into the clinching game, Game 5. I was covering for Sports Illustrated at the time and they put me up at the team hotel. I had been out with some other reporters, and I came back to the hotel and saw Kobe Bryant in the hotel lobby bar at 2 a.m., sipping on a Corona, talking to his friends, enjoying himself.

 

“I went back up to my hotel room, but couldn’t really sleep that night, so I took a walk around the hotel around 4 or 5 in the morning, and I see Kobe leaving the hotel gym in a full sweat, and the sun wasn’t even out yet. I had heard all these stories about Kobe’s insane training, but you never know if those are real or hyperbole. Then I had that experience. They clinched the next day.”​

Kobe Bryant Taught Former Teammate Luke Walton About Showing Up Hungover On His Watch

Per Silver Screen And Roll: Walton said, “I probably had too much to drink the night before,” Walton recalled. “So I came in, I was a rookie, I felt good, and they could smell some alcohol on me, and Kobe informed the rest of the team that nobody was allowed to help me on defense, and that I had to guard him the entire practice.

 

“And I was laughing at first, like ‘oh, this is funny,’ Walton continued. “But in Kobe’s mind, in his eyes, he was like ‘no, I see and smell weakness, I’m going to destroy you today.’ He taught me a lesson (laughing), he taught me a lesson. He probably scored 70-something in practice that day, and I’m begging for help, but none of my teammates would help. His killer instinct, and his work ethic will stick with me forever.”

Hearing Kobe’s Own Words On Greatness Shows A Lot About Him

“If you really want to be great at something, you have to truly care about it,” writes Bryant. “If you want to be great in a particular area, you have to obsess over it. A lot of people say they want to be great but are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness.”

Bryant Followed A ‘666’ Workout Plan

The numbers represent Kobe Bryant’s wild daily workout plan, which consisted of doing six hours a day, six days a week for six months in the offseason. The six hours of training consists of two hours of running, two hours of basketball and two hours of weightlifting.

Bryant Even Demanded His Nike Shoes Gave Him A Small Advantage

Per Sports Illustrated: 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.”

Even In High School, Bryant Was Putting In Work That Showed His Greatness

According to a Sports Illustrated piece, Kobe Bryant used to practice at five in the morning while in high school, ending his workout at 7 a.m. because school started shortly after.

Kobe Bryant Sums Up His Greatness With How He Wants To Be Remembered

Per Yahoo!: “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.”

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