Think what you want about Kobe Bryant. That he’s an adulterer; a gunner; a phony; or whatever other name you may call him. I’d agree, and, at various times throughout his career, have had the same thoughts about him.
But there’s also something else that defines Kobe, and that’s not his desire to win, win, win no matter what, but his desire to understand the process of winning — to realize why people win, rather than just attempting his damnedest to earn championships without a real clue how to achieve his goals.
Adrian Wojnarowski’s recent (and great) column, prepared after a one-on-one dinner with Kobe, shed some light onto Kobe’s continued quest to become the greatest winner he can be.
The first thing Kobe did was model his preparation after Michael Jackson. No, I didn’t mean to type “Michael Jordan.” Kobe actually looked up to the singing and dancing MJ, just like he clearly looked up to the dunking and scoring MJ.
Jackson called Kobe one time when The Black Mamba was only 18, and the two struck up a relationship. Kobe picked his brain. He wanted to know how Jackson prepared for concerts, how he prepared to make music. Before long, Kobe adopted Jackson’s mentality to use in his own craft. Why?
“Because what [Jackson] did – and how he did it – was psychotic.”
Another mentor of Kobe’s has been Bill Russell. Hold on, Bill Russell? Gag me with a championship ring.
“Bill is always a Celtic, but I think he’s appreciated my thirst for knowledge,” Kobe told Wojnarowski.
What types of things did Russell teach Bryant? How to be a leader. How to win. How to make others around you better. What Kobe has learned from his mentors amounts to one of the greatest lessons a team sports player could ever hope to learn.
“How to truly make players better, what that really means,” he said. “It’s not just passing to your guys and getting them shots. It’s not getting this or that many players into double figures. That’s bull[expletive]. That’s not how you win championships. You’ve got to change the culture of your team – that’s how you truly make guys better. In a way, you have to help them to get the same DNA that you have, the same focus you have, maybe even close to the same drive. That’s how you make guys better.
“I’ve never understood this stuff, where a star player sits out and a team goes into the tank. Well, they need him because he makes them better. Well, if he’s making them better, they should be able to survive without him. That’s how you lead your guys. You’ve got to be able to make guys suffice on their own, without you. If you’re there all the time and they take you away, they shouldn’t need a respirator.
“Once I understood all that, I looked at things completely different. I took my hands off. I didn’t try to control them. I let them make decisions, make their own [expletive]-ups and I was there to try and help them through it.”
Am I a fan of Kobe Bryant? Absolutely not. I despise him like the plague. I find him revolting in every sense of the word.
But goddamn do I respect him, and his unending search to evolve as a winner. Kobe will go to any length to learn how to win, and to help his teammates do the same.
I once read a quote, “It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.”
Kobe wants to win just like every other player in the NBA. But unlike many, he’s willing to undergo any task to achieve that goal.
So Kobe, I admire you. Now please excuse me while I regurgitate my lunch.