The late great Kobe Bryant was as intense of a competitor you will ever find. He was always so prepared to destroy his opponents during games because he trained like a madman and made it a point to keep his body and mind in elite condition.
One of the low points of Bryant’s career took place on June 17, 2008. The LA Lakers lost Game 6 of the 2008 Finals to the Boston Celtics by 39 points at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics won the championship, and Bryant was devastated.
A month after the Lakers lost the 2008 Finals, Bryant traveled to Las Vegas and participated in the United States men’s Olympic basketball team training camp. The Black Mamba was part of the “Redeem Team” that won Gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but before leaving for China, the Lakers legend started implementing cycling in his training sessions.
In typical Kobe Bryant fashion, the former MVP’s bike rides were anything but easy.
Kobe Bryant won two consecutive championships after losing in 2008
Cut from the same cloth as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant was furious after losing to the Celtics in the 2008 Finals. He promised himself that he would get back to the Finals after getting humbled by Boston and win a championship without Shaquille O’Neal.
During the 2008-09 season, Bryant was a man on a mission and played with an extra chip on his shoulder. He averaged 26.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists and played in all 82 games.
LA had some trouble with the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2009 playoffs, as the Purple and Gold needed seven games to get past Rick Adelman’s crew. After beating the Rockets, though, Bryant and Co. only lost three games. The Lakers took out the Denver Nuggets in six games in the Western Conference Finals and defeated the Orlando Magic in the Finals in five games.
While Bryant was thrilled he won his fourth championship, he still wasn’t satisfied. The great ones never are. He had business to take care of against the Celtics, who humiliated him in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals.
The Lakers and Celtics faced each other in the 2010 Finals. Kobe Bryant willed his team to victory in seven games, capturing his fifth title and second Finals MVP. There was something different about Bryant after he lost to the Celtics in 2008, and it all stemmed from his legendary bike rides in Las Vegas during the summer.
Kobe Bryant started his bike rides at 4:30 in the morning
While he was in Las Vegas training for the Olympics, Kobe Bryant took bike rides at 4:30 in the morning and went on paths with all types of crazy hills. Tim Grover, Bryant’s trainer, told GQ that Kobe took a break and rode back to the hotel when the sun was at its peak so he could be in the most uncomfortable temperature and environment possible.
Grover, who also trained Michael Jordan, said some of Bryant’s Olympic teammates wanted to join the Lakers star on his bike rides, but he told them not to since the rides weren’t built for everyone.
Losing to the Celtics in 2008 ignited a new burning fire in Kobe Bryant’s body and helped him train differently and win two more titles.
The Lakers great is the closest thing we may get to Michael Jordan
After Michael Jordan retired for the final time, so many players were dubbed the next MJ. However, Kobe Bryant is the only player who lived up to the billing.
Bryant passed Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list by basically copying all of his moves and adding his own twist to it. He went from air balling shots in a playoff game against the Utah Jazz to becoming the second-greatest shooting guard ever.
Kobe Bryant averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists during his NBA career. He may be gone, but he will certainly never be forgotten.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.