[Moderated by Matt Jones]

March 5, 2013

Going the Extra Mile

by @ 11:19 pm. Filed under All Cats Everything, Men's Basketball, NBA

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Yesterday on reddit.com, a user by the name of RobertAlert shared a personal account of his own firsthand experience with NBA superstar Kobe Bryant last summer. His post, titled “Hi r/NBA, my name is Robert and I’m an athletic trainer. This is my Kobe Bryant work ethic story,” read as follows:

 

I’ve been a professional athletic trainer for about 16 years and have been able to work with a range of athletes from the high school to professional level. Right now I run in a clinic in Cincinnati and have most recently been training with some players on the Bengals.

I activated my reddit account just a moment ago and because I’ve been seeing the videos of Kobe’s most recent dunks and the comments you guys have had to share I decided I might as well chime in what I know about the man. And let me just state by saying that this story doesn’t touch on anything we don’t know about Kobe but rather that he simply is not human when he is working on his craft.

I was invited to Las Vegas this past Summer to help Team USA with their conditioning before they head off to London, and as we know they would eventually bring home the Gold (USA). I’ve had the opportunity to work with Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade in the past but this would be my first interaction with Kobe. We first met three days before the first scrimmage, on the day of the first practice, early July. It was a brief conversation where we talked about conditioning, where he would like to be by the end of the Summer, and we talked a little bit about the hustle of the Select Team. Then he got my number and I let him know that if he ever wanted some extra training he could hit me up any time.

The night before the first scrimmage I remember I was just watched ‘Casablanca’ for the first time and it was about 3:30 AM. I lay in bed, slowly fading away when I hear my cell ring. It was Kobe. I nervously picked up.

‘Hey, uhh Rob, I hope I’m not disturbing anything right?’

‘Uhh no, what’s up Kob?’

‘Just wondering if you could just help me out with some conditioning work, that’s all.’

I checked my clock. 4:15 AM.

‘Yeah sure, I’ll see you in the facility in a bit.’

It took me about twenty minutes to get my gear and out of the hotel. When I arrived and opened the room to the main practice floor I saw Kobe. Alone. He was drenched in sweat as if he had just taken a swim. It wasn’t even 5AM.

We did some conditioning work for the next hour and fifteen minutes. Then we entered the weight room, where he would do a multitude of strength training exercises for the next 45 minutes. After that we parted ways and he went back to the practice floor to shoot. I went back to the hotel and crashed. Wow.

I was expected to be at the floor again at about 11 AM. I woke up feeling sleepy, drowsy, and almost pretty much every side effect of sleep deprivation. Thanks, Kobe. I had a bagel and headed to the practice facility.

This next part I remember very vividly. All the Team USA players were there, feeling good for the first scrimmage. LeBron was talking to Carmelo if I remember correctly and Coach Krzyzewski was trying to explain something to Kevin Durant. On the right side of the practice facility was Kobe by himself shooting jumpers. And this is how our next conversation went — I went over to him, patted him on the back and said, ‘Good work this morning.’

‘Huh?’

‘Like, the conditioning. Good work.’

‘Oh. Yeah, thanks Rob. I really appreciate it.’

‘So when did you finish?’

‘Finish what?’

‘Getting your shots up. What time did you leave the facility?’

‘Oh just now. I wanted 800 makes so yeah, just now.’

My jaw dropped. Mother of holy God. It was then that I realized that there’s no surprise to why he’s been as effective as he was last season. Every story about his dedication, every quote that he’s said about hard work all came together and hit me like a train. It’s no surprise to me now that he’s dunking on players ten years younger than him and it wasn’t a surprise to me earlier this year when he led the league in scoring.

Thanks for reading and allowing me to share you my Kobe Bryant story. If anyone has any questions I can clarify. Sorry if the story was at all hard to follow as this is my first time on reddit.

Rob.”

 

What separates Kobe Bryant from other superstar athletes is his unrivaled burning desire to win and his aching hunger to be the best that he can be. The man is 34 years old and a 17-year NBA veteran. He’s a 5-time NBA champion, 15-time NBA All-Star, and 2-time Olympic gold medalist. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, he has nothing left to prove. However, in his own mind, he’ll always have something to prove to himself. If Kobe Bryant feels in his heart that he possesses the ability to go the extra mile, that’s enough motivation in itself to demonstrate that he can.

 

John Calipari will be the first to admit that the 2012-2013 Kentucky Wildcats do not have the same sense of self-motivation the 2011-2012 team did. Led by gym rat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, last year’s ‘Cats built a reputation for spending extra time in the gym before and after practice improving their game. Whether it’s shooting 500 additional free throws or pumping out 50 extra reps on the weight bench, there is always work to be done.

 

The difference between good and great is half a step. That extra push is earned by countless hours spent alone on a court with just you and a ball. Even Coach Cal can only take his players so far. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Kyle Wiltjer’s defense will never improve until he sweats out every ounce of hydration in his 6’10″ frame sprinting in and out of cones and lifting weights during his own time. His offensive skill set is nearly flawless, but he lacks the proper strength and agility to make a defensive stop on even a halfway decent player. Willie Cauley-Stein’s .371 free throw percentage is not going to improve overnight, no matter how hard he or his fans wish it would. Though he clearly does not possess an instinctive knack for putting the ball through the hoop 15 feet away from the basket, lack of natural ability is never an excuse. Ray Allen, the NBA’s all-time leading 3-point shooter, was once quoted as saying,

 

“I’ve argued this with a lot of people in my life. When people say God blessed me with a beautiful jump shot, it really pisses me off. I tell those people, ‘Don’t undermine the work I’ve put in every day.’ Not some days. Every day. Ask anyone who has been on a team with me who shoots the most. Go back to Seattle and Milwaukee, and ask them. The answer is me — not because it’s a competition┬ábut because that’s how I prepare.”

 

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Nobody has ever criticized John Calipari’s Wildcats for a lack of talent, but even talent has its limitations. Sure, as I write this, it’s easy for me to sit back and say from the comfort of my own home that players need to put in the extra time to better themselves. I realize going the extra mile is never easy. But, Kobe Bryant didn’t quit when his body told him he should. Ray Allen didn’t stop shooting when his arms began to feel like Jell-O. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wasn’t the No. 2 overall selection in last year’s NBA Draft because of sheer talent, alone. (Have you seen his jump shot?) What these three players all have in common is the fact that they have experienced the feeling of becoming a champion in their own respective fields. But even then, they still haven’t stopped. Pleasure wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for the pain. If these ‘Cats are to have a chance this March in whatever tournament they end up, settling for mediocrity is no longer an option.

 

Follow me on Twitter @ConnorLinkKSR

One Response to “Going the Extra Mile”

  1. kentuckyjoe Says:

    Great post. I wonder what this world would be like if we all had even half of the drive and passion for our own fields that Kobe has for his.

    What you suggest for Kyle would help not only his defense but also his offense. Right now he needs 5 and 5. Five feet of space and five seconds to get his shot off. No one is going to give him either one anymore. They saw what happened to them when they did. Kyle’s got to work harder to get space and be quicker to get the shot off. If anyone should wonder what I mean just watch Marshall Henderson or J. J. Reddick. Or Ray Allen. They’ve got great shots, just like Kyle, but the difference is they actually get to shoot theirs. Earlier in the season I saw some quickness developing in getting that shot away but I haven’t seen this in a while now.

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