In 2007, a handful of years after Michael Jordan‘s second retirement from the NBA, his longtime trainer Tim Grover started working with a new client: Kobe Bryant.
Bryant had, by then, established himself as the heir apparent to MJ—a three-time champion (two more titles to come), with a remarkably similar skillset and mindset. And by 2007, 11 years into his pro career, Bryant’s knees were killing him.
“This guy’s pain tolerance was off the charts,” Grover says.
For the latest episode of The Assist on GQ Sports—originally recorded in November 2019, a few months before Bryant’s tragic death—Grover recalls how he helped Kobe completely reconstruct his training routine, and what he learned about Kobe in the process.
“His biggest obsession was to have more championships than Michael,” Grover says. “If you asked him when he was going to retire, he’d say, ‘After [championship] number seven.’”
Grover ultimately worked with Bryant from 2007 to 2012. He discovered that Bryant’s relentless pursuit of success had left him with a major deficit between his ability to accelerate on the court, which was off the charts, and his ability to de-accelerate, which had long been neglected and was causing knee issues.
Bryant was always ready and willing to listen to Grover’s advice, but couldn’t stop himself from making some… adjustments along the way, too.
“One of the biggest differences between the two is Michael always knew when it was enough,” Grover says. “And he would listen to you. If you said, ‘That’s it,’ then that’s it. With Kobe, to him, ‘That’s it’ means that’s it for that moment, but three hours later, I can start back up again.”
Check out the full video below, which includes more comparisons between MJ and Bryant, and more one-of-a-kind Kobe stories, like the 4:30 am bike ride he put together in Las Vegas before the 2008 Olympic Games.