Alex Kennedy: You learned Bruce Lee’s style of martial arts (Jeet Kune Do), took tap-dancing lessons and studied how great white sharks and cheetahs hunt their prey because you felt those things would help you improve as a player. Are there any other unconventional things you studied or did in an effort to hone your craft?

Kobe Bryant: Well, I called John Williams in 2008 and talked to him for a while about the way he conducts his orchestras. Because, if you think about it, it’s such a difficult thing to do – there are so many instruments and all these different sections, from the woodwinds to the percussion to the horns and all sorts of stuff. And he has to lead all of those sections, all of those people, to create one harmonious sound. So, how do you do that? I sat down with him for a bit and picked his brain about it because I felt like there were a lot of similarities between what he does and what I have to do on the basketball court. And some of the things he said to me were fascinating. One thing he said was, “Kobe, if I hear something is off, I can just interject and give them the answer. But I’ve found it’s better to ask them questions [about fixing what’s off] because most of the time, the answer I’ll get back will be a better answer than the one I had.” That really helped me from a leadership standpoint and how I handled the guys on my team going forward. This was coming off of our loss to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals. But I showed up to training camp for the 2008-09 season and changed my approach to leadership, just based on the way that John Williams conducts his orchestra.

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Kobe, When Luke Walton Showed Up to Practice Drunk →

Luke Walton on the Open Run podcast:

I probably had too much to drink the night before. So, I came in. I was a rookie. I felt good. And they could smell some alcohol on me, and Kobe informed the rest of the team that nobody was allowed to help me on defense and that I had to guard him the entire practice.

And I was laughing at first, like, “Oh, this is funny.” But in Kobe’s mind, in his eyes, it was like, “No. I see and smell weakness. I’m going to destroy you today.” And he taught me that lesson. He taught me that lesson. I mean, he probably scored 70-something in practice that day, and I’m begging for help. None of the teammates would help.

But his killer instinct and his work ethic, they’ll stick with me forever.