As his career winds down, more and more stories about Kobe Bryant and his legendary work ethic have come to light. Now another one has been revealed from an unlikely source that most people probably have never heard of.
Undrafted rookie Tony Gaffney earned a camp invite from the Lakers in 2009 after an impressive showing in Summer League, making it all the way to the final cut before being released. Gaffney came in with a reputation as a defensive player and when Kobe got wind of this, he had a challenge for the rookie as was revealed to Basketball Insiders:
Roughly one week into training camp Bryant called Gaffney down to the Lakers’ training facilities in El Segundo.
“We’re gonna start playing one-on-one,” Bryant told Gaffney, according to the forward. “I heard you’re a defensive lockdown player. So, lock me down.”
For the next three weeks, Gaffney came in before practice to play one-on-one against Bryant. He never played offense and Bryant would change rules every day, sometimes only scoring from the outside, other times choosing to score only with his off-hand.
To this day, Gaffney has a reputation as being one of the hardest workers overseas, but even he couldn’t match Bryant’s legendary status:
There was no difference with the Lakers except no matter how early I showed up for practice, it wasn’t early enough: Kobe was on the court with three trainers doused in sweat.
Gaffney detailed how Bryant would be at the Lakers gym at 6:00 a.m. before leaving to take his daughters to school, then returning to the gym at 9:00 a.m. to get more shots up.
Coincidentally, Gaffney would end up on the Boston Celtics playoff roster in 2010. Before Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Kobe and the Lakers, Gaffney said Kobe gave him a big hug — after calling him a traitor of course.[divide]
Kobe Bryant Talks Business, Says Athletes And Owners Are Overpaid