We all assume that the MJ who had the biggest influence on Kobe Bryant was Michael Jordan. But the Black Mamba revealed that Michael Jackson also helped shape him into the legend he would become.
On "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel", Kobe revealed that the King of Pop reached out to him when he was still an 18-year-old NBA rookie. Jackson let him know to just be himself (via Real Sports press release):
KOBE BRYANT: "Gold’s Gym in ’98. Liftin’ weights and I get a phone call and it’s Michael Jackson on the other line. And kinda, ‘What the hell is going on?’ Somebody’s playing a practical joke." ANDREA KREMER: "Michael Jackson calling you at the age of 18?" KOBE: "Age of 18. He’s a big basketball fan [back then]. 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. 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." KREMER: "Studying, researching . . . what?" KOBE: "The game. Chicago won another championship. How? Why? How do we get to that level?"
Kobe’s focus has become legendary — almost maniacal – and it’s part of the reason the man will walk away with five championship rings.