When the GOAT puts his body into your hands, you better not mess up. Tim Grover didn’t. He worked with Michael Jordan until his retirement, and MJ must’ve been a satisfied customer given the fact he recommended Grover to his heir apparent. When Kobe called MJ and told him, “My knees are killing me,” the greatest knew who to call.
Working with two of the best, most dedicated basketball fanatics in the world puts Grover in the privileged position to talk about and compare the two with authority. As it happens, both guys also shared a coach. On the court, Phil Jackson was in charge. Off the court, the rest was in Grover’s hands. What was it like? According to Grover, Kobe worked harder. MJ worked smarter.
“With Kobe, it was very difficult to stop. He always wanted more, and he would have a lot of pieces on his team that had a hard time coexisting together, at certain times in his career. Michael’s team was very cohesive. It was a small group, everybody knew their role, everybody knew what they were supposed to do and they did it. He trusted very few people. When you told Michael ‘Enough, that’s it for the day.‘ he would literally say “I hired you to do this job, I trust you” With Kobe, it was never enough, it was always more.”Tim Grover, The Woj Pod
This is how Kobe got to Grover in the first place. When they agreed to work together, Grover had to figure out what was wrong with Kobe’s knees. To sum it up, they were overworked. Athleticism implies two things – acceleration and deceleration. Bryant was overworking his acceleration ability (concentric contractions), which shortens the muscles and neglecting his deceleration ability (eccentric contractions), which lengthen the muscles. Because of that, every time he would land, change direction, etc., the muscles couldn’t take the load, so the cartilage and bones did.
“The biggest difference between the two of them was, I actually had to teach Kobe and work with him on how to stop. Not only how to stop from a training standpoint, but also teach his muscles how to stop to make sure his career lasts longer.”Tim Grover, The Woj Pod
Kobe’s thirst for greatness had no limits, and Grover’s main job was to protect Kobe from himself. Whether it was wanting to get waterboarded to test his pain limits, playing in an All-Star game with a concussion, or asking Grover if he can tape down his torn Achilles so he can go back and finish the game, Bryant’s drive for excellence was unparalleled. With Kobe, Grover had to be a psychologist as much as he was a trainer. The ’09 and ’10 titles prove Grover did quite alright.