The 2019 NBA Finals are officially here and the showdown between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors promises to be must-watch TV, especially when you consider the sheer talent around these teams. While the series should be entertaining, have you ever thought about how these players got to the height of their careers?
Sure, the players are blessed with athletic ability and talent, but talent alone is not enough to be successful at the professional level. Success in sport, and in any profession, stems from a strong work ethic.
As we embark on NBA’s biggest stage, let’s explore one of the most famous examples of work ethic displayed by a basketball player: Kobe Bryant.
In the 2000s, basketball was synonymous with the ‘Black Mamba’.
During his 20-year career in the NBA, Kobe became a 5x champion, an 18x All-Star, and won the Most Valuable Player award in 2008. More impressive, though, was his work ethic. Tales of his intensity have become almost as well known as his on the court stats. Bryant became one of the greatest players in basketball history by waking up before 5 a.m. each day for early morning workouts and holding marathon shooting sessions. Kobe realized he couldn’t rely on talent alone—he needed to put in the extra effort to achieve his dreams.
Here are some of the best examples of Bryant’s work ethic.
1. He showed up early.
Kobe would show up at 5 a.m. for 7 a.m. practices in high school. You read that right. At an age where many of us would sleep in until the absolute last second, Kobe was already putting hours in the gym and the court. Remarkably, after his high school practices would finish, Kobe would force teammates to play one-on-one matches to 100 points.
2. He practiced his craft.
Kobe would practice without a basketball, by himself for hours. Kobe was always meticulous in his approach to the game and would often seek new ways to challenge the boundaries of his body and mind, especially in practice. Here’s what Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe’s former teammate, said in his 2011 memoir, Shaq Uncut.
“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.”
3. He didn’t let setbacks stop him.
Kobe was always the first player in the gym, even when he was hurt. In past interviews, former NBA player and Lakers teammate John Celestand recalled the time where Kobe broke his wrist during the 1999-2000 season. After Kobe’s injury Celestand thought he’d finally beat Kobe to the facility. When he arrived the next morning, Celestand was surprised to see the superstar already in a full sweat, working on shooting drills with his left hand and supporting a cast on his right arm. Speaking of which…
4. He found a way to stay in the game.
Kobe injured his right shoulder during a game and decided to play left-handed. Instead of sitting out the rest of the game, he insisted to stay on the court. He even made one of his shots. During times of uncertainty, Kobe pushed himself to give all he can to help support his team.
5. He knew the details were key to success.
Kobe paid attention to the details. To stay on top of his development and stay familiar with his competition, Kobe spent countless hours in the film room. He knew that analyzing every millisecond of a game would give him an advantage.
6. He knew what was critical to his success – and he took care of it.
Kobe invested in his greatest asset – his body. He maintained a 20-year career by adopting an injury prevention routine, often icing his knees for 20 minutes, three times a day along with acupuncture. Kobe knew that he had to keep his body in top shape to stand above his competition.
Bryant’s insane work ethic should inspire all of us. He is considered one of the greatest to play because he spent years perfecting his craft. These same ideals are easily transferable in our own careers. If we want to be great, we must also put in the effort, even when no one is looking or during times of uncertainty. As you enjoy the series this week, remember that pure ability alone will not take you to the top of your profession. It takes a strong work ethic.