Kobe Bryant played in his final NBA basketball game last week. This game marked the end of his 20 year career in the NBA, and even more remarkably, 20 years all with one team, the Los Angeles Lakers. According to ESPN, Bryant is just the eleventh player from the major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) to stay with one team for an entire career of 20 years or more.
Although there were some off-the-court issues with Kobe, his performance on the court made him one of the all-time greats. Bryant is third all time in scoring; he is a five time NBA champion; he is an 18 time all-star; he owns two Olympic gold medals; he is second in history with six 60-point games, including 60 in his final game last week.
That Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players ever is indisputable. So what was it that made him perform at such a high level? According to former teammate Robert Horry, it was Kobe’s incredible work ethic: “I played with a lot of great players. By far he [Kobe] was the hardest working guy I ever played with.” Kobe’s commitment to working hard to improve his game is confirmed by Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who during his very early years in the NBA had this experience with Kobe. Durant tells the story of being in Las Vegas for the Olympic tryouts. They had a day off, but there was a bus that would take players to a high school gym to workout if they wanted. Durant and Jeff Green, two of the youngest players at the tryout, were the only ones on the bus. Then, just as it was getting ready to depart, Kobe got on the bus. All of the other veteran players took the day off, but not Kobe. Kobe went to the gym and worked out by himself at one end of the court. Durant and Green were at the other end. Durant said, “He [Kobe] made 50 shots from each of 7 spots at the 3 point line. That takes a lot. It takes a long time to make 50 from each spot and he was dripping with sweat. We looked down and said man, he’s the best player in the league and he took a bus to a high school gym to put some work in, he’s old school.”
A very important key to Kobe Bryant’s success is his work ethic. He worked harder than anyone else to improve his skills. Even though he was already the best in the league, he continued to practice and work hard.
Even if you are the best in your field, or your organization is number one in your industry, don’t be satisfied. Don’t be complacent or the competition will catch up. Continue to work hard, practice, and improve your skills. This is how you obtain long-term sustainable success like Kobe Bryant.
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