Add up all his accomplishments on the court and there’s no doubt Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history. It’ll be debatable where exactly Kobe lands in the list of legends but almost everybody feels he should be somewhere on that list. Bryant also has a rather unique mentality where even though it likely fueled what he did on the court, it also made him do some wild things.
Speaking on the Legends of Sport podcast, former Lakers head trainer Gary Vitti discussed his new book and told various stories of being head trainer throughout the legendary Lakers teams of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s.
Discussion eventually turned to Bryant and Vitti explained what made him such a legend. Vitti noted that while Kobe had the talent and athleticism to play, he wasn’t going to be the most talented or most athletic. Instead, it was Kobe’s mentality and mental toughness that vaulted him above the rest. For example, Vitti revealed that while players may be on their phones checking social media or texts in the locker room during halftime, Kobe would be watching game film of the first half to try and find something he could use to be better in the second half.
Because of this, Vitti revealed about the time Bryant got waterboarded by Navy SEALs. For those who don’t know, waterboarding is a torture device where someone has something over their face and water is poured on them so it feels like the person is drowning. Not to get into the ramifications on how effective it is to get a true confession but if someone administers a waterboarding, it’s typically done to them at some point in training to know what it feels like if they have to do it to someone else. Similar to law enforcement being tased if they are to carry tasers, it’s meant to give them a perspective to not do that to others unless they really need to.
Anyway, sounding as if it’s totally not surprising that Kobe would do this, Vitti told host Andrew D. Bernstein, “Yeah he was hanging out with a bunch of Navy SEALs and he wanted to see what all the hullabaloo was about so he said, ‘Why don’t you guys waterboard me?'”
Kobe hasn’t confirmed whether or not this story was true but if it was true, Vitti would probably be aware of that. Plus, volunteering to be waterboarded seems like it’s a bit too bizarre of a story to make up. Vitti also shared in greater detail about how Bryant felt he could get out of the “reverse bear trap” from the Saw movies.
Vitti said, “We’re going to say that he was tough in the sense that he took ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ out of his lexicon. And he just believed that he could do it.”
“And I’m going to tell you a story. We’re on a plane…So I had never seen a Saw movie or heard of the Saw movies. And so we’re on the plane and here comes Kobe back with a DVD to me. He goes, ‘Dude, you gotta watch this.’ I said, ‘What is it?’ He goes, ‘It’s a movie called Saw and I can do it. I know I could, if I had to do it, I could do it.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He goes, ‘You’ll see. You’ll see.’ And then he looked at me and said, ‘Reverse bear trap.'”
“Okay, I don’t know what that means. So I pop the DVD in and I’m watching this sick movie and what the reverse bear trap is, without going into what the whole movie, the premise of the movie, but there’s this scene with this thing that’s called the reverse bear trap…So reverse bear trap, instead of the clamps closing, they open. But the way they open is you have this thing on your head. And the clamps are in your mouth, one on the upper jaw and one on the lower jaw. And this thing is locked on your head, you can’t get it off unless you have a key to the lock. And the key to the lock has been surgically embedded behind your eyeball.”
“So the only thing in the room is the guy with the reverse bear trap and a scalpel. And he has to cut his eye out to get the key to take the lock off so the thing will come off his head. If he doesn’t, then when the timer goes off, the reverse bear trap is released and it basically tears his skull apart. And [Kobe] is looking at me saying, ‘I can do it. I can do it.’ And you know what, I believe him.”
I don’t know if he’s cooled off a bit now that he’s retired but I definitely learned to not challenge Kobe Bryant in anything. Because it sounds like Kobe is willing to do anything, and take that on as a challenge, just to say he did.