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Kobe Bryant calls Michael Jackson his mentor

Nov 23, 2010, 12:44 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is a complex man.

We like to paint our athletes into easy to define boxes — Kobe learned his drive by watching Michael Jordan — that are not always accurate fit. They often are not with Kobe.

For example, he told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo he learned his drive by his friendship with late pop star Michael Jackson. It was Jackson who reached out to Kobe when he first came to Los Angeles.

“It sounds weird, I guess, but it’s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports.

“We would always talk about how he prepared to make his music, how he prepared for concerts,” Bryant said. “He would teach me what he did: How to make a ‘Thriller’ album, a ‘Bad’ album, all the details that went into it. It was all the validation that I needed – to know that I had to focus on my craft and never waver. Because what he did – and how he did it – was psychotic. He helped me get to a level where I was able to win three titles playing with Shaq because of my preparation, my study. And it’s only all grown.

“That’s the mentality that I have – it’s not an athletic one. It’s not from [Michael] Jordan. It’s not from other athletes.

“It’s from Michael Jackson.”

This is a must read because Wojnarowski got Kobe to open up in a way he rarely does. Kobe was honest, not there to protect his image. Some other highlights of the article:

• He gets why other players have twitter and work to create a brand for themselves, but says that’s not for him (at least in the new social media model). He just doesn’t identify with it, it’s not him. He just wants the rings.

• That it took him a long time to learn that leading a team was not just setting guys up with assists but pushing them to reach their peaks.

• That he doesn’t want to play forever because he doesn’t want the guys that he can take advantage of now being able to take advantage of him.

• That he talks with Celtics legend Bill Russell about ways to grow and ways to grown and improve a team. That Russell helped him see what leading team really was and really involved.

• That he wears a Lakers varsity letter jacket to dinner that has several trophies stitched onto the back.

• That his favorite places to play are on the East Coast — Boston, New York, Philadelphia — where the fans genuinely “hate your [expletive] guts.”

• That he plans to go to London in 2012 and win another gold medal. LeBron James may think that is his team, his time, but Kobe doesn’t care. He is going to do his thing, to push and prod. To dominate. And James and the rest of them can treat it how they want. Kobe is there to work.

  1. wfon1 - Nov 23, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    There’s nobody else like Kobe.
    Go Lakers!

  2. beagleladywv - Nov 23, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    Thank you, Mr. Bryant, for acknowledging the work ethic of Michael Jackson and how his guidance, and knowledge, helped you to reach the heights in your sport. Mr. Jackson gave his all to his craft and expected only the best from himself, and with those with whom he worked.

    How refreshing to see this kind of story in relation to Michael Jackson in the media, and not the caricature of him that is usually presented that actually had nothing to do with who he was as a person, an entertainer and a humanitarian. There will never be another Michael Jackson. He was one of a kind genius. The best of luck to you in your career!

  3. ewburgess - Nov 23, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    King of Pop and King of Basketball – what a great connection. Kobe you are the best. Go Lakers!! Michael still giving back – greatest humanitarian in the world – Guinness Book of Records for celebrity with the most charity connections and the most money given!!

    • hnirobert3 - Nov 23, 2010 at 6:53 PM

      King of Basketball? There’s about 10 guys ahead of him. How old are you, 17? Put on ESPN Classic sometime and enjoy.

  4. zblott - Nov 23, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    How does Kobe stack up as an early-season MVP candidate:

  5. beagleladywv - Nov 23, 2010 at 5:34 PM

    It is interesting that you seem to know more than a jury of 12 who found Mr. Jackson not guilty on all counts in 2005. I hope you never have to face a jury, knowing you are not guilty, and then when the jury agrees, everyone still labels you as a criminal.

    The DA in California, Tom Sneddon, tried everything he could to get a conviction on Mr. Jackson. He tried for ten years, even involving the FBI and could never get evidence to show Mr. Jackson did anything of which he was accused. In 1993, he convened TWO grand juries, and both times the jury made the decision that there was insufficient evidence to go to trial. Why do I think Jackson was not guilty? Because I have done my research (read the article, “Was Michael Jackson Framed” by Mary Fisher. You can find it on the internet.). The other reason is that Tom Sneddon left no stone unturned to try to convict Mr. Jackson. If he couldn’t find evidence, no one could. Why? Because Jackson was not guilty of those horrible charges.

    Mr. Jackson was approached by Evan Chandler, father of the young man, to finance two screenplays he was writing. Mr. Jacksons refused, and that is when Chandler accused him of chld abuse. The legal secretary for Chandler’s lawyer, even overheard their conversations where Chandler talked about extorting money from Jackson and ruining his career. Mr. Jackson’s insurance company made the decision to settle the case even though he did not want them to. In the end, Jackson was advised to settle the case and give them the money since that is what the Chandlers wanted, and to get on with his life.

    Let me ask you a hypothetical question. Suppose you believed your child was sexually abused, would any amount of money make it ok? I would think not. Well, the Chandlers took the money and ran. In 2005 Jordan Chandler was asked by the prosecution to testify against Mr. Jackson. It would have been the perfect opportunity to state his case, as an adult, against him. He refused, saying he would leave the country if they tried to force him. To me, that says a lot.

    Jackson cared deeply for the welfare of children. He gave all of his personal proceeds from two of his world tours to charities for children. When on tour, instead of partying with the band, he visited orphanages in every city and took toys to the children and gave money to the administrators to help with improvements to the facilities.

    He is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most money donated by a celebrity to charity- 39 different charities benefited from his generosity. He opened up his home to inner city and seriously ill chldren so that they could have one day of fun. He even had medical facilities set up so that the ill children, who were bed-ridden, could still enjoy their day. I would add that the did this when most of the time, he wasn’t even at his ranch and his staff would take care of the children’s needs. He paid for a child’s liver transplant, paid the funeral expenses for a baby that was drowned by his mother, the list goes on and on.

    Unfortunately, I fear you are a victim of “medialoid”. This is when traditional journalism has become infected with tabloid sensationalism. They will do anything for money, and could care less about the harm they are doing to a contributing HUMAN being. It is shameful, and a thinking person must learn to do his or her own research to find the truth.

    The Michael Jackson that the media has presented is nothing like the man he truly was. Never has a person been so methodically and systematically been set upon to be destroyed in the media as Michael Jackson was. Even in death, they pick over his bones like vultures.

    • borderline1988 - Nov 24, 2010 at 3:05 AM

      I am very impressed with everything Kobe says except for the Michael Jackson nonsense.
      Michael Jackson was a total nutcase. And whether or not you believed he was actually a child molester (he slept in the same beds as children), he was clearly doing things that an adult should stay away from. He was obsessed with kids in a weird way. I dont care if he actually never abused a kid (we’ll never know for sure) but I sure as hell wouldn’t have let my kid get 10 miles from him.
      IN fact, if you looked at his life – the media had very little to do with his public image. He made stupid mistake after stupid mistake. For instance, after being accused of child abuse, he made no effort to distance himself away from those weird parties at his resort. The guy did it to himself. ANd he led a reclusive life, had probably hundreds of plastic surgeries that made him look like a wax figurine, and blew all of his money on ridiculous (and ultimately strange) luxuries.

      I can’t understand the obsession with this guy. For some reason, after he died, it became the cool thing in Hollywood for all celebrities to gush about his greatness in every aspect, even when many of those celebrities knew him less (personally) than me or you. For that reason, he died with a good image.

      And if all that wasn’t enough, I am not very impressed with his music either. Before his time, the most popular music was created and instrumented by the best musicians in the world (beatles, clash, doors, you name it!). Once MJ came around, popular music began to deviate from the better musicians, and nowadays we have rap artists like 50 cent with about 50 cents of musical talent to their name, who are the most popular artists in the world. That all started with MJ. He was an excellent entertainer and he defined the mid 1980’s culture, but as far as his musical talent goes….well, let’s just say it doesn’t match all those number 1 chart appearances….

      I respect Kobe’s competitiveness and lack of caring for what other people think of him (if Lebron had the same attitude, he’d have been the greatest player in NBA history, hands down). He can say w/e he wants to say about MJ, and I doubt he cares what I think. But let’s stop glorifying this total weirdo who already had his undeserving glory days and totally blew his own image.

  6. layne4 - Nov 23, 2010 at 11:11 PM

    It is not too far a stretch to believe that a hugely talented 18 year old basketball player
    could learn determination and relentless drive from a perfectionist in his own field.
    Those people who worked with and knew Mr. Jackson all remark on his singular
    focus in producing the very best work possible given his immense talent. Mr. Bryant
    reflects that same work ethic in his sport. Both gain respect by honoring their talent
    to the highest degree.

    Good article and kudos to Kobe for giving credit where due.

  7. lebronsinsecurity - Nov 23, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    Bitter or Jealous a bit??

  8. guyamige - Nov 23, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    @ fould, dont know what you are smoking but whatever it is, is not good for your brain, still talking about kobe’s rape that was so glaring he didnt do. As for michael jackson praparation, i believe a lot of people learned from him and kobe is no exception. Go Kobe unto your 6th ring!!!

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