Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson might not be two names immediately associated with each other, but the Black Mamba has revealed the sage advice he received from the King of pop early in his NBA career.
Appearing on HBO's 'Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel' via Fox Sports, Kobe recounted a time when, as an 18-year-old rookie, he received a phone call from Jackson.
After being told who was on the line, the Lakers star initially thought it was a practical joke. As it turns out, however, the music legend was simply calling to offer some words of wisdom on becoming a great in your field:
"He's a big basketball fan [back then]," Kobe told Gumbel.
"I was starting to get flack for being an introvert and being so serious all the time about the game. And he wanted to call and give me encouragement and say, 'Don't change for them. You have to stay focused.
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"If you wanna be one of the all-time greats you have to study the all-time greats. You have to be obsessive about what you do and how you do it.'
"And the summertime, I would just disappear. I'd be studying, I'd be researching, I'd be figuring out a way."
There is no doubting that Michael Jackson reached the very top of his field during his heyday, and Kobe has certainly achieved the equivalent status on the NBA hardwood in the 20 years since their conversation.
Regardless of how much influence MJ's words had on the young Kobe taking the NBA by storm, it is interesting to see that the competitive drive is a common train amongst the greats.