Kobe Bryant has spent the majority of his nearly 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers searching for any competitive edge he can find, from flying to Germany for blood platelet therapy to ignoring arthritis in his right index finger for so long he cannot play basketball without special support for it. Bryant's competitiveness stands out even in a league of men playing at the pinnacle of their sport.
In the past, Kobe has also revealed getting inspiration from unconventional places before, most notably when explained to Ariana Huffington and Philip Galanes that he fixed his jumper by watching footage of cheetahs.
Bryant is clearly a big fan of the Discovery Channel and nature documentaries, because Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas recently sat down to have a chat with Bryant and pick his brain before Kobe's final game in TD Garden, and Thomas revealed to Adrian Wojnarowski on "The Vertical Podcast with Woj" that cheetahs aren't the only large, predatory cat Bryant uses as a muse:
"[Talking with Kobe] was crazy. First off, I walked in a room, I had gotten into contact with people who know him, and I just wanted to say hello and hopefully get a jersey signed, or some shoes signed, or something.
But we actually went into the locker room an hour before the game, two hours before the game, and he just sat down and talked to me like we knew each other for years. I really just told him when I sat down 'thank you for what you've done for the game of basketball. I've watched you since I was seven-years old, you've been my favorite player since then.' He told me he watches my games and he's proud of how I've been playing, and to keep doing it, and we need to get you in the All-Star game and things like that.
Then I asked him a question and it was just friendly talk for about ten or 15 minutes, and then it was the last thing I asked him, I asked 'how do you not get distracted by everything? Whether it be the media, family, friends, all the naysayers. How do you not get distracted?' And he told me this story about a lion.
He said "do you ever watch [nature documentaries]?"
And I said "no, not really. I mean I watch it every now and then."
But he's like "okay, for instance a lion. When he's out to get his food and to kill whatever he's going after a gazelle, a zebra, whatever it may be, you know how many bugs and gnats are just on his eyes or on his body He doesn't feel those because he's so locked in to what he's trying to eat, and if you're not as locked in as you think you are you're going to feel those gnats, you're going to feel everything pulling you in and distracting you, whether it be the fans or the crowd or the coaches, whatever it may be."
He said "right now I'm enjoying the moment, I know I'm playing like shit but that's irrelevant. But years ago I didn't let anything distract me. I was like that lion, that no matter what was going on outside of what I was envisioning and what my goal was that I was going to lock in and get it.'
And that was a story that I'm going to keep for the rest of my career, for the rest of my life and it's not just about basketball, that's just about life period."
So if you ever wondered if Kobe really talks like the character he plays in Nike's "Kobe System" commercials, the answer is yes. That is just a fantastic analogy, possibly the best of the Bryant farewell tour no small feat when it has included Kobe comparing the process of teaching the team to win to teaching a cat to bark.
Also, we really should have known about Kobe's affinity for lions when he filmed this Turkish airlines commercial to take a selfie with one:
Classic Kobe. Using time filming an endorsement to pick the brain of a lion on the best strategies for dealing with annoying gnats and/or basketball writers.