The difference between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, explained by the man who coached them both

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have often been compared. But what really distinguished the two NBA stars?


In 2007, a few years after Michael Jordan’s second retirement from the NBA, his longtime coach, Tim Grover, began working with a new client: Kobe Bryant.

By then, Bryant had established himself as MJ’s heir apparent, a three-time champion (with two more titles to come), with a remarkably similar skill set and mindset. In 2007, 11 years into his professional career, Bryant’s knees were hurting.

« This guy’s pain tolerance was off the charts, » Grover explains.

In the latest episode of The Assist, a GQ US sports video program originally recorded in November 2019 a few months before Bryant’s tragic death, Grover recalls how he helped Kobe Bryant completely rebuild his workout routine, and what he learned about him in the process.

« His biggest obsession was to have more NBA titles than Michael, » Grover says. « If you asked him when he was going to retire, he would say, ‘After the seventh championship.

Grover eventually worked with Bryant from 2007 to 2012. He discovered that Bryant’s relentless pursuit of success had left him with a significant deficit between his ability to accelerate on the field, which was off the charts, and his ability to de-accelerate, which had long been neglected and was causing knee problems.

Bryant was always ready and willing to listen to Grover’s advice, but he couldn’t help but make some…adjustments along the way, too.

« One of the biggest differences between the two of them is that Michael always knew when enough was enough, » Grover says. « And he would listen to you. If you said ‘that’s it,’ then that was it. For Kobe, ‘that’s it’ meant it was all for the moment, but three hours later, I can do it again.

The video below includes more comparisons between Jordan and Bryant and other unique Kobe stories.


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