Kobe Bryant is often viewed as one of the most eccentric NBA players. From his on-court antics to his off-court persona, the Lakers legend has built a reputation as someone who doesn’t operate at the same level as others. During a 2006 interview on Stephen A. Smith’s former ESPN show Quite Frankly, Bryant revealed a fascinating tidbit about himself, and it involved the way he did or didn’t sleep.
Kobe Bryant’s sleep patterns
In his prime, Bryant prided himself as an athlete who got up at 4:30 am each day to focus on basketball. When Smith asked him how this affected his bedtime, the former NBA star opened up about his sleep patterns. “I don’t need too many hours of sleep, man,” Bryant told Smith. “I can go off of three or four hours.”
In typical Stephen A. Smith fashion, he questioned how Bryant could train with so little sleep. Bryant laughed and assured him that he was good with his tiny amount of sleep.
According to Bryant, his 4:30 am wakeup call wasn’t just for basketball. He explained that by waking up as early as he did, Bryant could spend the rest of the day with his family. He concluded by stating that sleep deprivation was a common occurrence in the NBA. The best thing players could do was accept that they were not going to get normal sleep hours during the grind of a season.
NBA players’ sleeping patterns
Kiki Vandeweghe may be the NBA’s vice president of basketball operations, but he was a 13-year NBA veteran at one point. In 2014, Vandeweghe spoke to ESPN about how hard it was to sleep during a fast-paced NBA season filled with travel, practice, games, and appearances across the country.
According to Vandeweghe, the best way to combat a lack of sleep was to catch up whenever he and the other players weren’t on the move, be it on the bus, at the airport, or wherever the opportunity presented itself. Vandeweghe played in an even harder NBA era when back-to-back-to-back games were commonplace and travel between them was normal, too.
Michael Jordan, who people often compare to Bryant in both game and mentality, also spoke about how rarely he slept during his NBA career. The superstar notoriously spent some of his nights before big games out in Atlantic City and other gambling havens.
Whether Bryant, Jordan, and Vandeweghe were unique, or part of a bigger problem, most people cannot operate with this lack of sleep. And the benefits of a good night’s sleep are well-documented.
Sleep and the human body
The NBA has spread out schedules in recent years as more research comes out that highlights what proper sleeping habits can do for a human body. Harvard professor Charles Czeisler has consulted for the NBA since he started showing an uncanny ability to predict wins and losses based on the season’s scheduling.
Losing sleep is bad for reaction time, it impedes the ability to see and process things, and it can make a player less aware. Not only that, but lack of sleep can diminish testosterone and have long-term effects for those who continuously do without it.
Even the greatest basketball players of all time are human beings. Despite their claims of superhuman abilities regarding lack of sleep, even they need rest.