What Swimmers Can Learn From An NBA GOAT

by Jonathan Dray 25

October 27th, 2023 Lifestyle, News, Training

In a previous article, we dove into the three primary fears holding swimmers and coaches back – the fear of failure, fear of judgment, and fear of success. This week we take a closer look at failure and judgment from the perspective of Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

If you have heard anything about Kobe, you probably know that his work ethic, leadership skills, and mindset were unparalleled. Hence, why he achieved such profound greatness.

One quality of Kobe that helped him excel so much faster than others was his courage to try new things without getting hung up on what others might think.

He knew that in order to play at the level he wanted to he had to grow FAST. He would watch other players for skills he didn’t have and would practice those skills to see if they could make him a more effective player too. Kobe was like a sponge.

“What separates great players from all-time great players is their ability to self-assess, diagnose weaknesses, and turn those flaws into strengths.” – Kobe Bryant

It’s natural to feel anxiety or fear around the judgment of others, but how we embrace that and move forward on our own path is handled very differently. Kobe would take action immediately in his attempt to learn a new skill, move, or shot whereas others may have waited longer to try, afraid of being judged if they failed.

“When it came to basketball, I had no fear. What I mean by that is: if I wanted to implement something new into my game, I’d see it and try incorporating it immediately. I wasn’t scared of missing, looking bad, or being embarrassed. That’s because I always kept the end result, the long game, in my mind. I always focused on the fact that I had to try something to get it, and once I got it, I’d have another tool in my arsenal. If the price was a lot of work and a few missed shots, I was OK with that.” – Kobe Bryant

Like all great athletes, Kobe held on tight to his vision and dreams knowing he was in it for the long game. He knew that in order to achieve his greatness, he would need to make mistakes focusing on himself rather than what others might think of him.

Swimmers battle fears every day. Sometimes these fears, such as looking bad or embarrassing ourselves, are rooted in the past. To achieve our greatness even one percent more we must let go of these mental blocks and focus on what is truly important to us – improving our greatness.

Be relentless in your pursuit of greatness by trying new things. How long has your coach been telling you, “You need to get out in front of your competition from the start!” or “your stroke hasn’t changed in the last six months!”. You will never get better if you continue to do the same things you always have.

For some, stagnancy has been days, others months. The sooner you commit to making a change or trying something new and stop caring about what others think, the faster you will reach your next level of greatness.

If you false start, mess up a turn, or die in a race because you need to improve your race strategy, in the words of Kobe remind yourself, “I’m OK with that.” Remember the long game.

Don’t wait to be great. Get out there and do something about those fears holding you back.

Pro Tip: Make a ‘Skills to Build’ list. If you have fifty things you’re trying to get better at in every stroke, write them down. Think you see something your teammate does that you don’t but that could make you faster? Write it down. Make a checklist and a plan to attack each skill, review a few before practice, and update it as you grow.

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Andrew
7 months ago

Kobe doesn’t belong in the same stratosphere as MJ or Lebron. I’d even take guys like Bird, Magic, Kareem, etc over him. Kobe needed Shaq to win rings more than Cal needed international students to win their fraud rings

If Kobe was still alive and had a generic name like “Mike Smith,” people would stop glazing his legacy.

It’s honestly getting tiresome

Breezeway
Reply to  Andrew
7 months ago

A prime Kobe vs a prime LeBron, Kobe would destroy him. Bron would have a size advantage but skills and mental advantages would go to Kobe

RealSlimThomas
Reply to  Breezeway
7 months ago

I never watched Kobe play, but I find it hard to believe he has a significant advantage in regards to mental advantages. Lebron has played with an immense amount of pressure his entire career, potentially the most next to current rookie Wemby. He came back from 0-3 against the Warriors, making history in the process.

Andrew
Reply to  Breezeway
7 months ago

The “mamba mentality” stuff is complete BS. We are supposed to believe that Kobe genuinely wanted to win more than other professional athletes who all work equally as hard as him. Killer instinct can’t be measured and since Kobe was an inefficient scorer and ballhog with unremarkable postseason stats, Kobetards cite their made up “killer instinct” when talking about Kobe.

Admin
Reply to  Andrew
7 months ago

What separates talent at that level if not mentality? NBA benches are littered with guys who have insane talent. And there are of course layers. Guys with size like Kobe and Lebron and KD who can move like that have a level of physical talent that sets them apart.

But there are guys with that same physical talent who sit on the bench. Ben Simmons is a great example of that.

So what’s the difference if it’s not mentality?

Andrew
Reply to  Braden Keith
7 months ago

Braden – basketball actually has counting stats for offense and defensive ratings so you can thoroughly compare and contrast players and compare (albeit with flaws) across eras.

In swimming, there are no stats (other than the times you go) to effectively compare and contrast swimmers. There’s no avg UW kicks stat, freestyle strokes taken per length stats, etc

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrew
Admin
Reply to  Andrew
7 months ago

So besides the fact that your response is a total non-sequitur, swimming DOES have stats to compare across eras.

They’re wildly less complex than the stats used in other sports.

They’re called “medals” and “world rankings.”

They too are not perfect, but they are only as imperfect as the stats you’re referring to.

Andrew
Reply to  Braden Keith
7 months ago

Braden, medals don’t account for strength of different eras or how quickly training has evolved.

The nba stats I’m referring to are “era proof.” I don’t think it’s fair to compare Mark Spitz’s times from 50+ years ago to times today when most high level 8th graders would smash his times into oblivion

monkeyseemonkeydoodoo
Reply to  Andrew
7 months ago

andrew is the GOAT… at freezing cold takes

Ryan
Reply to  Andrew
7 months ago

I disagree with Andrew a lot here, but he’s right on the money with this one. “Mamba mentality” is a total myth. In elimination games in his career, Kobe averaged 22 PPG on 35% shooting from the field (for non-basketball fans this is truly horrifically bad, as league average is between 45-50%). If his shot wasn’t falling, he was genuinely a detriment to his team. When he and Shaq played together, they won three championships. There’s a reason Shaq was finals MVP all three times. If you replace Shaq with another star big man, the Lakers don’t win any titles. If you replace Kobe with a different star guard, the Lakers still go 3/3

Mentality is hugely important in sports,… Read more »

Ice Golem
Reply to  Andrew
7 months ago

I’ve heard Shaq rank Kobe top 3. I trust his rankings over anyone spending time on a swimming website

Eouai
7 months ago

I’ll be honest, I get kinda tired of the constant hero worship when it comes to Kobe Bryant. Yes, he was a great athlete, and incredibly focused on his skills. And yes, his early death was tragic.

But he committed SA. And was often an a-hole to those in his circles.

If we are looking to learn from and emulate a successful professional athlete – there are plenty of other and much better success stories out there. Those that broke barriers, contribute to their communities, and are generally good and moral people: Jackie Robinson, Tim Duncan, Ronaldo, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Simone Biles, Lebron James, Colin Kaepernick, JJ Watt, Roger Federer, Muhamad Ali. And that’s just off the top of… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Eouai
RealSlimThomas
Reply to  Eouai
7 months ago

Yeah – the NBA seemingly brushes most SA under the rug in hopes people forget about it. Miles Bridges on the Hornets right now has his second case against him, and he is expected to play this season from the last report I read. Josh Primo just signed a deal with the Clippers in the off-season after exposing himself to a therapist in the last year or two. Kevin Porter Jr. has accusations he beat up his wife, and I think he has been dropped as a response.

It’s wild I can think of three active players with ease – I’m sure there’s more. It raises the question if Kobe wasn’t glorified after what he did, then would these cases… Read more »

Breezeway
Reply to  RealSlimThomas
7 months ago

You must not read SwimSwam every week regarding SA stuff

RealSlimThomas
Reply to  Breezeway
7 months ago

I guess you’re insinuating swimming is worse than basketball?

If we’re going to compare apples to apples – outside of Trenton Julian (don’t know if anyone really knows what happened there), there aren’t as many instances of SA among professional level athletes in the swimming community. My understanding is that most cases occur at the age group or collegiate level, and I have to imagine these problems are consistent (not less common) with youth and collegiate basketball.

BigBoiJohnson
Reply to  Eouai
7 months ago

You know very little about any of those people. To say someone is a “generally good and moral person” while only seeing their public facade (that is, what they want you to see about them) is laughable. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that every single person you named there has done far worse things than Kobe.

Also, he was never convicted of SA. All we know is that he did commit adultery.

swimgeek
Reply to  BigBoiJohnson
7 months ago

Kobe gets tons of praise as a “girl dad” but showing more respect for his girl’s mom (his WIFE) would have been nice.

cynthia curran
Reply to  swimgeek
7 months ago

Well, she got out of Fullerton, which is not as nice s Irvine or Mission Viejo to Newport Coast. She is Hispanic, so she might have wanted to stay more with him since they tend to be Catholic and give second chances more.

swimapologist
Reply to  Eouai
7 months ago

Is swimming this far out of the loop? Everyone else has come to the conclusion that it was a money grab. There was no good evidence of Sexual Assault that was ever presented.

Both Bryant and the accuser lied, repeatedly, about what happened, and the charges were ultimately dropped.

swimster
Reply to  swimapologist
7 months ago

taking that “pologist” part seriously eh?

Ryan
Reply to  swimapologist
7 months ago

“Everyone else” being Kobe’s defense lawyers who public leaked information slandering the woman so that the case seemed illegitimate?

Ryan
Reply to  Ryan
7 months ago

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

Words straight from Kobe’s mouth

swimster
Reply to  Eouai
7 months ago

money and good PR team.

Popeye
7 months ago

Has everyone forgotten about the rape charges from Colorado and the fact he was nothing more than a ball hog at the end of his career to pad his stats?

Steve Nolan
7 months ago

If you have heard anything about Kobe, you probably know that his work ethic, leadership skills, and mindset were unparalleled.

Nah, I mostly knew him as a mondo jerk! Among…other less scrupulous things. (Srsly, Jeff Pearlman wrote a whole book about how much he sucked! Just happened to release it the same year Kobe died and was beatified, so.)