Republished from LakersNation.com, June 5, 2014, written by Ryan Ward.
With 18 seasons in the books, Kobe Bryant has made an impression on a number of different players, teammates, and coaches throughout his NBA career.
Perhaps the lasting impression Kobe has left on people throughout his time as the face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise has been his incredible work ethic. Much like Michael Jordan, Kobe has the reputation for being relentless in his pursuit of basketball perfection and the distinction as one of the greatest to have ever played the game.
This kind of tireless work ethic from the future Hall-of-Famer has not gone unnoticed.
16 motivational stories from players, coaches, and former teammates explaining just how dedicated the five-time NBA champion is in perfecting his craft standout among the rest.
Jerry West On Kobe: “He Comes To The Arena At 4:30”
The main reason Kobe Bryant will go down as arguably one of the greatest Lakers of all-time rather than Charlotte Hornet is due to former general manager Jerry West.
West saw something special in Kobe heading into the 1996 NBA Draft and pulled the trigger on the trade to acquire the talented high schooler in exchange for veteran center Vlade Divac.
A questionable trade at the time, but a brilliant move in retrospect. West forever changed the Lakers franchise with arguably the best trade in franchise history to acquire a confident and cocky 17-year-old fresh out of Lower Merion High School.
West said the following about Kobe’s work ethic a few years back, according to NBA Canada:
“What’s most impressive about this young man are his desire, his work ethic, his competitive nature. [Bryant] comes to the arena at 4:30, before anybody is here, and works on his game alone. He has incredible skills and the desire to be a great player.“We’re extremely happy with Kobe’s development – and we think he’s going to keep improving. You haven’t seen the best of Kobe yet.”
As a result of West bringing in Kobe, the Lakers have won five NBA titles while being a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference for over a decade.
Ron Artest Tells Us Why He “Loves” Kobe Bryant
After beating Dwight Howard‘s Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals back in 2009, the Lakers made a bold move by signing a wildcard in free agent Ron Artest. Although Artest seemed to be the perfect fit giving the Lakers an upgrade on both ends of the floor, many questioned whether he and Kobe could coexist in Los Angeles without killing each other.
Artest and Kobe had physical confrontations on the floor on more than one occasion, but all that was put aside once the two joined forces in Los Angeles. Both players began to respect one another after teaming up and have had nothing but good things to say about each other ever since.
“3rd workout done. Let me tell why I LOVE KOBE “JELLY BEAN”BRYANT! I Get to the gym at 6:45,the Black Mamba gets there at 5:30! Go Lakers!”
Even though World Peace no longer plays alongside the five-time NBA champion, it’s clear that there’s a lot of respect between the two. The unlikely pairing worked out in Los Angeles with World Peace winning his first and only championship ring with the Lakers.
Kevin Durant Talks About Kobe Bryant Motivating Him On Team USA
Kevin Durant will arguably be one of the top two players in the NBA for the next decade or so. Durant shows no signs of slowing down and seems to improve on an annual basis.
Part of Durant’s drive and determination might be attributed to the short time he spent with Kobe Bryant during their days sporting the red, white and blue for Team USA. Durant witnessed Kobe’s work ethic firsthand and said the following about how it has stayed with him via ESPN:
“We had the day off, but they said we could get some shots up if we wanted, so I decided to head over with [Oklahoma City teammate and Team USA hopeful] Jeff Green.“Kobe [Bryant] was the only guy on the bus, 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.”
Durant went on to win two gold medals while playing alongside Kobe and is coming off his first MVP season leading the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Shaq/Kobe Feud Dominated The Headlines, But Shaq Still Praises Kobe’s Dedication
It could be argued that Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were the best duo in NBA history. Although it ended poorly with Shaq forcing his way out of town and Kobe wanting the Lakers to be his team, the one-two punch of Kobe and Shaq was unstoppable during their three-peat campaign.
Shaq talked about his former teammate in his book, My Story: Shaq Uncut, back in 2011. Shaq claims Kobe has a “scientific” edge to him that LeBron James simply doesn’t possess, according to The Palm Beach Post:
“Kobe is a scientific dawg. He works out every day, practices every day. Most of the other stars are just dawgs, not scientific dawgs.“Me, I’m a freak-of-nature dawg because of my size. LeBron could be a scientific dawg like Kobe, but he’s not, he’s got a lot going on like I did, so that’s preventing him from being one.”
As Shaq suggests, Kobe approaches the game in a different way that has helped prolong his career. Michael Jordan changed his game and went with a different approach at an advanced age in a very similar way. It remains to be seen if LeBron is capable of making the same transition down the road.
Jason Kidd Praises Kobe’s Approach To Practice
Jason Kidd had an incredible NBA career that carried over to a potentially long career as a head coach with the Brooklyn Nets. Kidd and Kobe played together on Team USA and the veteran point guard was impressed about the way the Lakers superstar approached practice on a daily basis.
Kidd said the following about watching how Kobe handled himself during practice via ESPN:
“Kobe was great. He practices as if it’s Game 7. He wants to prove that he’s the best player in the world every single practice.”
Kidd may have won that elusive championship ring with the Dallas Mavericks, but Kobe and company were the main reason he didn’t have more to his credit dominating the Western Conference and beating the future Hall of Famer in the NBA Finals back in 2002.
Gary Payton Says Kobe Bryant Predicted His Success
As arguably one of the best defensive guards in NBA history, Gary Payton knows a thing or two about confidence and hard work.
The former Laker admits that Kobe was a bit of a cocky youngster when the two played together in Los Angeles, but everything he said he was going to do, he did it, according to quote from Payton in Shaq’s book, My Story: Shaq Uncut:
“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.”
It is a shame that Payton and Kobe didn’t play together longer, but it is pretty clear that Bryant left a lasting impression one of the greatest point guards of all time.
Deron Williams Has Nothing But Respect For Kobe
Kobe Bryant’s time with Team USA and the NBA’s elite that Mike Krzyzewski and company assembled has obviously left a major impression on all those involved. Kevin Durant, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Kidd, Carlos Boozer and others have all seen a different side of Kobe that they didn’t know existed.
All those that have seen Kobe’s work ethic firsthand on Team USA have been blown away by it, including Deron Williams, according to a quote from the star point guard via the L.A. Times:
“I have a lot of respect for his game. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Williams said. “He’s just a great competitor. . . . Just seeing how he works every day, it’s inspiring.“Until you see it up close and personal, you never really know. Any time a guy was scoring on an opposing team, he wanted to guard him. He always wanted the toughest assignment. That’s just his nature.”
Williams is just one of many inspired by Kobe during their time overseas and may not be the last with the veteran shooting guard set to play two more seasons with the Lakers.
John Celestand Recalls Nothing EVER Stopping Kobe From Being The First At Practice
A testament to Kobe’s dedication to putting in the work every single day is a story from former teammate John Celestand back in 1999. Celestand prided himself in getting to practice first, but Kobe took that to another level via ViralHoops.com:
“The first time I began to understand why he was the best was in the pre-season. In a game against the Wizards, Kobe broke the wrist on his shooting hand. He was always the first person to practice every day, arriving at least an hour and a half early. This would infuriate me because I wanted to be the first person to practice, just as I had always been at Villanova and Piscataway High in New Jersey. To add insult to injury, I lived only 10 minutes from the practice facility — while Kobe was at least 35 minutes away.“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 him) 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 and dribbling and shooting with his left.”
Needless to say, Kobe missing practice or simply not participating due to a broken hand wasn’t going to happen. Kobe could get hit by a truck on the way to practice and show up in a wheelchair. Dedication to another level.
Former Teammate Robert Horry Says Kobe Is Perfect Example Of Work Ethic
Robert Horry played his part in the Lakers winning three consecutive titles over a decade ago, but Kobe’s work ethic definitely didn’t go unnoticed for a guy that won seven NBA titles in his career.
Horry believes that Kobe is a perfect example of hard work and that kids coming up should learn from his example. Horry said the following, according to an appearance on a Young Hollywood podcast:
“I tell people all the time I used to play with Kobe Bryant.“Kobe Bryant is probably one of the best basketball player you’ll ever see outside of Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon.“The thing that makes Kobe so great, is that he’s a hard worker.“And I hope the young kids would watch him and learn that you can’t get anywhere unless you put in the work, the time, and the effort. And that’s what Kobe does, he brings a lot of the time, and lot of the effort.“People don’t know that, but he’s always the 1st in the gym, and the last to leave, even though he is the best player in the game right now.”
With five titles to his credit and the distinction as one of the players to ever play the game, Horry is right on the money in terms of young players needing to take notes.
Tayshaun Prince Always Had To Be Ready For “War” When Facing Kobe
Tayshaun Prince is another example of Kobe rubbing off on players during their time playing alongside the future Hall of Famer with Team USA. Prince compared facing Bryant like he was going to war, according to ESPN:
“You learn a lot of things from Kobe, just his patience and things like that. Just the ultimate competitor. Stays in the gym all the time. Always wants to get better. Always wants to work. When you go out there and play against him, you have to be ready for war. He’s always moving, he’s always physical, you have to always be alert at any time.”
Prince is one of the few players that have been able to get the best of Kobe during the NBA Finals. The Detroit Pistons nearly swept the Lakers back in 2004.
Kobe has only lost one Finals series since 2004 falling to the Boston Celtics in 2008.
Caron Butler Credits Kobe For Taking His Game To The Next Level
Although Butler played alongside Kobe during a rebuilding process in Los Angeles, the current Oklahoma City Thunder forward learned a lot from the eventual five-time champion. Butler attributes his success with the Washington Wizards to learning from Kobe in Los Angeles, according to an interview he did with The Dallas Morning News:
“I say that’s the best thing that ever could have happened for me personally for my career,” Butler said. “To play alongside a guy like that, see his preparation, see what it takes to get to that level, that’s why I was able to be so good in Washington because I took everything I learned from him under his wing.”Butler played in 77 games in 2004-05 with the Lakers. He averaged a then career-high (by a tick) 15.5 points and then career-high 5.8 rebounds. His free throw shooting improved, too.“Work ethic,” Butler said. “He comes to the gym 6:30, 7 in the morning, gets shots every day, a rhythm. Afterward hits the weight room, works out in the summer, studying film, critiquing guys, watching their tendencies, picking things up … Just studying the game with him taught me a lot.”
Butler has bounced around the league quite a bit since his short stint in Los Angeles, but obviously views the time with Kobe as pivotal to his success in the NBA.
Ronny Turiaf Says Kobe Is An “Inspiration”
Unfortunately for Ronny Turiaf, the Lakers started winning titles again shortly after he landed with the Golden State Warriors.
Despite not being able to win a title alongside Kobe, Turiaf, like Caron Butler, cherished the time with the future Hall of Famer, according to an interview with David Friedman of 20 Second Timeout:
“Kobe’s just an inspiration to be around – on and off the court. His leadership style is one of modeling — no one works harder than him. No one practices harder.“All you have to do is watch him, and do what he does to prepare and maintain his game — I couldn’t help but get better as I matured as a player around him — who couldn’t?“Kobe is simply the best player on the planet! LeBron is trying to get there with his body, his game, his style and his arsenal — and he will. But Kobe will still have been there first.”
It’s a shame that Turiaf missed out on an opportunity to win a title with the Lakers, but he did win a ring with the Miami Heat in 2012 alongside LeBron James.
Carlos Boozer Was Impressed By Kobe’s “Determination”
Carlos Boozer is another member of the Team USA squad that got to witness Kobe’s work ethic firsthand. Boozer claims to have been a friend of Kobe’s before they became Olympic teammates in 2008, but didn’t know just how dedicated Kobe was to put the work in daily.
Boozer said the following about his former rival from his Utah Jazz days, according to ESPN:
“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.”
The trend continues with veteran players praising Kobe for his determination. Boozer is one of many that has expressed the same opinion about the hard work Kobe puts in to be an elite player in the NBA.
Jim Boeheim Calls Kobe “Hardest-Working Player” He’s Ever Seen
Outside of Phil Jackson, few head coaches have seen eye-to-eye with Kobe Bryant. The five-time NBA champion is demanding and set in his ways. That is obviously something that can cause a problem with coaches from time to time.
One coach that was very impressed with what he saw in Kobe was Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. As a member of Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching staff for Team USA, Boeheim witnessed how Kobe approaches the game and was blown away by what he saw right out of the gate, according to ESPN:
“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. Of course, when we needed a big shot, he made a big shot against Spain.”
Coach K and Jackson have also had high praise for Bryant over the years. It remains to be seen if the next coach of the Lakers will share the same sentiment for the five-time NBA champion hungry for another ring before he calls it a career.
Laron Profit Recalls Pick-Up Game Proving Kobe’s Incredible Drive
Laron Profit may have only played alongside Kobe for a short while, but it was long enough to prove he’d do anything to win.
Profit said the following about Kobe’s passion and determination showing in a pick-up game back in 2005, according to ViralHoops.com transcription of a radio appearance by Profit on ESPN980:
“You know it was so funny, my first experience when I was out in LA, me and Kwame Brown got traded to the Lakers [in Summer of 2005]. 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].”“But then around him, you understand that nothing he does is by accident, that all this is a result of hours and hours and hours of preparation. So that when he gets into a situation in a game, in a playoffs game, in a Finals game, his confidence comes from his prepration.“He once told me at a halftime of a game, he was struggling, I think we were playing Seattle [Sonics] and he was struggling, and I asked him, “How do you feel?” and he said, “I feel great! The second half… the second half. Hey Prof, I work too hard. These shots HAVE to fall eventually because I’ve worked too hard, I’ve shot too many shots.”“So his belief in himself… when we look at it and see it as arrogance, some people see as may have too much confidence. It’s really just a result of how hard he works, of how much preparation time he puts in his game. That once he steps on the court, he really believes that he will be successful. And that’s what I think I took away from him more than anything else, it’s that your belief in yourself has to come from your confidence and your preparation.”
Roland Lazenby Says Michael Jordan Believes Kobe Deserves The Comparison To The NBA Legend
Most people believe that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. The Hall of Famer has a ridiculous amount of milestones to his credit and despite having walked away from the game for more than a decade, it is still considered to be atop the NBA totem pole.
It could be argued that Kobe Bryant has come the closest to matching Jordan’s dominance on the basketball floor. Even Jordan believes that the five-time NBA champion deserves the comparison due to his tireless work ethic that rivals his own, according to Jordan biographer Roland Lazenby via L.A. Times:
“Kobe had done the work. He [Jordan] was very aware and taking in great interest in Kobe Bryant’s great work ethic. Michael Jordan’s work ethic also is legendary. He said Kobe had done that work to deserve the comparison. He says Kobe’s the only one to have done the work.”
Receiving an endorsement like that from arguably the greatest player in NBA history is about as good as it gets. With all these motivational stories combined, it is clear that Kobe is simply on another level driven by the desire to be in an elite category.
Hopefully, there will be more stories to come with the face of the Lakers franchise having two more years left on his contract.