Gary Vitti was the Lakers head trainer when Kobe arrived in the NBA as a 17 year old kid. He was there for Kobe’s last game 20 years later. Vitti can say something that no-one else can – he was also there for all other games. As the Lakers head trainer for over two decades, Vitti is the only person that saw every Kobe game live and was there for the full Mamba experience.
Vitti will point out that at first glance, there is nothing special about Kobe Bryant. Kobe is big, but he’s not the biggest. Kobe is fast, but he is not the fastest. Kobe is strong, but he was never the strongest. What Vitti thinks made Kobe special was his drive, how hard he worked and the fact that he worked smart. Kobe wasn’t just dedicated to outworking everyone else. He was dedicated to being smarter about how he works than anyone else.
But, that level of dedication comes at a price. That’s where being smart about it proves to be crucial. A lot of people have that mentality and burn out, they can’t follow their own pace. Kobe knew when to push through, and when to step back and reassess. But, when he decided he needed to push through, nothing was stopping him.
One time Kobe sprained a finger, and sprained it “good.” Vitti was there to deal with the injury, but Kobe didn’t have time for proper procedures. It was game time (via Fair Game):
“Dislocations hurt. There are different degrees of dislocations, and you can see my face. I really had to put a lot of traction on that bone to put it back in place. As tough as he (Kobe) is, he was riving in pain. When you see Kobe riving in pain, you know it hurts.”Gary Vitti
If a player does return from such a severe sprain, you put some bandaging around the sprain to minimize the possibility of reinjury. Kobe just walked back out on the court, there was no time for that. Only at the next time-out did Vitti manage to stabilize it a little bit. The way Kobe walked out, calmly told Vitti, knees buckled a bit while Vitti popped it back in, and Kobe was out there in a second.
The great ones are maniacal in their nature and drive for whatever they do. Sometimes it works out, sometimes they shoot free throws with a torn achilles. To achieve that level of greateness you have to accpet most people will condsider you insane.