Michael Jordan Recalls Kobe Bryant Calling Him at 3 A.M. to Talk Basketball: ‘At First It Was an Aggravation’

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Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls is guarded by Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1998

When it comes to all-time NBA greats, two names that come to mind are Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The two hyper-competitive superstars were technically rivals for the brief period of time they spent together in the league. Yet Jordan was also a role model of sorts, providing a template for Bryant’s own approach to the game.

Bryant wasn’t shy about seeking out Jordan’s friendship and advice. In fact, if the urge struck him, he wouldn’t hesitate to call Jordan at any hour of the day or night. Let’s look at the friendship between these two NBA legends as well as how Bryant’s intense mindset informed other aspects of his life.

Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant’s legendary friendship

Among their many similarities, Jordan and Bryant were both intensely private individuals. So, while the friendship between them was common knowledge among fans, the details of their relationship were often shrouded in mystery. Yes, basketball fans knew that Jordan had taken the young Bryant under his wing.

During and after games, Bryant could also frequently be seen beelining toward Jordan, hoping to get a few moments of conversation in with his elder. Yet beyond that big brother, little brother dynamic, fans didn’t really understand just how closer Jordan and Bryant were. Only after Bryant’s tragic death did Jordan finally reveal the extent of their relationship.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Jordan began his speech at Bryant’s Staples Center memorial back in February by saying: “Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends, but we were very close friends. Kobe was my dear friend. He was like a little brother.”

Bryant’s insane work ethic

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls is guarded by Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1998
Kobe Bryant guards Michael Jordan in 1998 | Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images

Jordan then went on to detail how a young Bryant used to seek him out for advice. Bryant was so hungry for Jordan’s knowledge and insight, that he would call him up basically anytime the urge struck — even if that meant dialing Jordan in the middle of the night. As Jordan put it: “He used to call me, text me, 11:30, 12:30, 3 in the morning, talking about post-up moves, footwork, and sometimes the triangle. At first, it was an aggravation, but then it turned into a certain passion.”

Those late-night calls make sense when you consider what an insane schedule Bryant kept. Even during the peak of his playing career, he claimed that he could operate with as little as three or four hours of sleep each night. That reduced sleep schedule bought Bryant extra time to hone his approach to the game, both physically and mentally.

At times, that single-mindedness may even have worked against Bryant’s best interest. Bryant used the same strength and conditioning coach as Jordan, a man named Tim Grover. Grover explained one of the biggest differences between Bryant and Jordan to GQ: “Michael [Jordan] always knew when it was enough. 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.”

Bryant cold-calls his way to the top

Even if the results weren’t always in his own best interest, one thing about Bryant was sure: He was never going his approach to the game of basketball. And not surprisingly, Bryant adopted that exact same approach in his post-playing career, right down to his habit of cold calling people out of the blue for advice.

Bryant wasn’t shy about discussing the tactic, either. In fact, he attributed much of his success to his cold calling. As reported by Forbes, Bryant willingly admitted, “I like cold calling people. The first person I called was Oprah. I didn’t understand the business at all, but I loved writing so I called Oprah and she was gracious enough to spend an hour and some change on the phone with me.”

As far as Bryant was concerned, if there was somebody out there who could give him the advice he needed to get ahead, he wasn’t going to hesitate to reach out to them and learn everything he could.

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