Kobe Bryant, says his on-court mentality comes from advice offered by the King of Pop
MINNEAPOLIS – Out of nowhere one afternoon, Michael Jackson made a call to the irrepressible and isolated Kobe Bryant, and so much changed for him. From a distance, the King of Pop could sense so much of his own obsessive genius within the prodigy. Bryant was the 18-year-old wonder for the Los Angeles Lakers, and no one knew what to make of a restlessness borne of a desperate desire for greatness.
“He noticed I was getting a lot of [expletive] for being different,” Bryant said.
They would talk for hours and hours, visiting at Neverland Ranch, and Bryant has long been fortified by the lessons Jackson instilled about the burden of honoring true talent, about the ways to open your mind to be smarter, sharper and insatiable in the chase.
“It sounds weird, I guess, but it’s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports.
Bryant isn’t much for nostalgia and sentimentality, but it hung in the air as he cut into his steak over dinner recently in the fourth-floor restaurant at the Graves Hotel. Jackson is gone, but Bryant is going on 15 years with the Lakers.
“We would always talk about how he prepared to make his music, how he prepared for concerts,” Bryant said. “He would teach me what he did: How to make a ‘Thriller’ album, a ‘Bad’ album, all the details that went into it. It was all the validation that I needed – to know that I had to focus on my craft and never waver. Because what he did – and how he did it – was psychotic. He helped me get to a level where I was able to win three titles playing with Shaq because of my preparation, my study. And it’s only all grown.
“That’s the mentality that I have – it’s not an athletic one. It’s not from [Michael] Jordan. It’s not from other athletes.
“It’s from Michael Jackson.”
KOBE REMEMBERS MJ (TIME ARTICLE)
"One of the things he always told me was, don't be afraid to be different. In other words, when you have that desire, that drive, people are going to try to pull you away from that, and pull you closer to the pack to be 'normal.' And he was saying, It's O.K. to be that driven; it's O.K. to be obsessed with what you want to do. That's perfectly fine. Don't be afraid to not deviate from that. One of the books that he gave me that helped him communicate with me was "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," which was about that.
Beyond the genius of what he was, he was just a genuinely, genuinely nice person. He got me hooked on movies that I would normally never watch. Fred Astaire movies. All the old classics. I would never, never watch those. I remember my fiancée and I telling him we were getting married, and him just being really excited and actually just offering up the ranch to have our wedding there, because privacy was going to be an issue. We wanted to get married in a church, so that's what we wound up doing. But he made the offer. He was just a genuinely nice person who was exceptionally bright, exceptionally bright, and driven and talented. You mix those things together, man, you have Michael Jackson."