‘Felt the Same Nerves’: Former Trainer For Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant Reveals How They Handled Fear & Doubt

Published 05/14/2021, 6:07 AM EDT


Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were cut from the same cloth. The two were almost identical in their style of play and their mentality. Both were the hardest working people on their team and would never give up in the face of adversity. Their mentality was the stuff of legend, with many considering both Bryant and Jordan two of the most mentally tough players in the history of basketball.

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The mentality of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan

Tim Grover, the former trainer for Michael Jordan, who also worked with Kobe Bryant, spoke recently about how the duo handled mental adversity. Grover noted that there were big differences between fear and doubt. Michael Jordan would feel fear before a game, but he wouldn’t let any doubt creep in and affect his performance against any of his opponents.

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Chicago Bulls All-Star forward # 23 Michael Jordan file photos. (Photo by Tom Berg/WireImage)
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Grover said, “Fear and doubt aren’t the same, and the difference is as distinct as winning and losing. Before every game, you’d see MJ alone, head down, chewing his gum, having a private conversation with himself. He felt the same nerves you might feel before you’re about to face a challenge. But he never doubted that he would perform at his best…”

Kobe and MJ wouldn’t let anything faze them

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Grover added that people always lumped fear and doubt together. The fundamental difference is that fear is natural, whereas doubt is fostered by the mind. Players like Jordan and Kobe never let doubt creep in. They believed so greatly in themselves and their ability to do what they do that they couldn’t allow doubt to affect them. They were so determined about their game that they would do whatever they needed to win.

Jan 21 2009: Kobe Bryant during the 108-97 Los Angeles Lakers victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Darryl Dennis/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)

Grover said, ”Fear shows up on its own. Doubt has to be invited. Fear heightens your awareness; it makes you alert. Doubt is the opposite; it slows you down and paralyzes your thinking. Fear is about the threat, whatever you have to face. Doubt is about you…For both MJ and Kobe, it all came down to a relentless belief in whatever they did. Every decision, every move, was rooted in confidence.”

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This weekend, Michael Jordan will take to the stage to induct Kobe Bryant into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. It will be a fitting tribute because Kobe had tailored his game and mentality after Michael Jordan. So there is no better person to give him the utmost honor in the sport.

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Aaditya Krishnamurthy

1313 articles

Aaditya Krishnamurthy is an NBA & NFL journalist for EssentiallySports, before which he worked at BusinessWorld magazine. He has been a fan of Basketball for over 10 years now, since Shaquille O’Neal was a Phoenix Suns player. During his time at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, he started a sports magazine for the college called the Overtime Tribune and hosted the Overtime Tribune Podcast until he graduated.

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