Kobe’s Trainer: Rehab? Return? Retire? Key Is Staying ‘Relentless’

Tim Grover was asking the same big question Saturday that so many others were, the great unknown hanging over fans of the Los Angeles Lakers and NBA followers in general: Will Kobe Bryant play again?

“It will be his decision whether he wants to come back from this or not,” said Grover, Bryant’s personal trainer who has worked with some of the NBA’s most elite athletes. “Nobody else is going to make it for him. And if he decides to, I’m ready.”

Grover counts Bryant as a friend and an active client on a long list of NBA stars stretching back through Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas, Tracy McGrady, Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and the one who opened the door for him, Michael Jordan. Knowing the Lakers star as he does – and from their contact overnight, in the aftermath of Bryant’s stunning, apparent-Achilles tendon tear Friday against Golden State – Grover has more answers to a lot of little questions than most of us.

But answering that big one? Too soon, he said.

“Until he has a procedure,” the trainer said, “and I become more educated on what’s going to get done, and we put the team together by talking to doctors and other individuals, I can’t make that assessment. It’s unfair.

“The reason I’m not in L.A. now is there’s nothing I can do. It’s not like I can go sprinkle some dust on it and all of a sudden do a ‘Mr. Miyagi’ and he’s back playing again. It makes no sense for me to get on a plane yet. Once the MRI [result] comes out, he’ll share the details. The Lakers’ training staff will get on it, the doctors will get on it, Kobe and I will talk and we’ll figure out a plan of action.”

At which point, Grover, CEO of Attack Athletics in Chicago, will be spending a lot more time in the 714 area code than in the 312.

Grover was watching the Warriors-Lakers game on TV when he saw Bryant go down Friday. “I saw the play and I saw what he grabbed for, and the first thing in my mind was, ‘It looks like an Achilles,’ ” he said. “There is no miracle cure for that one. You’ve got to sit down and go through the process. It changes everything. Out with the old script, in with the new. My hands-on stuff doesn’t really start until the immobilizers are off the foot.”

None of the many NBA players with whom he’s worked faced rehab from Achilles surgery, Grover said. However, he has been consulting on Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang‘s protracted comeback in China from a second Achilles tear; the 2004 gold medalist missed the 2008 Games, then blew out the same tendon in London last summer.

Grover’s experience with Liu’s re-injury and with others who have endured such tear puts him at odds with critics and other speculators on social media that Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni or Bryant himself pushed too hard, through too many minutes, in their team’s desperation to chase a Western Conference playoff berth.

“The one thing about an Achilles, it can happen any time, under any stress movement,” Grover said. “You could walk off a sidewalk and pop your Achilles. It’s just one of those injuries. People get hurt. I can’t blame anyone for this. I don’t think it had anything to do with the minutes he was playing. It’s a freakish injury that just happened.”

The process of rehab for a 35-year-old athlete – Bryant will hit that mark Aug. 23, with months of grueling, repetitive work still to come – is different from a 25 year old, Grover acknowledged. The good news, though, is that techniques and know-how have advanced over the last decade or more. Bryant isn’t necessarily any worse off, then, than if he had done this in 2003.

“Somebody said, ‘Oh, Isiah [Thomas] had to retire when he tore his Achilles at 33,’ but that was, what, 20 years ago?” Grover said of the Detroit Pistons’ Hall of Famer, whose career ended after 13 seasons in 1994. “We have a lot more resources available to us now. Things have changed so much.”

That accounts for the physical side of Bryant’s latest challenge, anyway. The psychological side – whether he wants to come back, how hungry he stays through the grind and how hard he works – is something Grover feels they already have tucked in their back pockets. Bryant and he have done this sort of work before.

In fact, it’s the subject of Grover’s book, coincidentally ready for release Tuesday. In “Relentless: From Good To Great To Unstoppable” (Scribner, 2013), the trainer shares tales from his 20-plus years of experience and lays out his system for categorizing different types of competitors (“coolers, closers and cleaners” in his terms). The book is intended not just for sports audiences but for real-world applications in business and in personal pursuits.

Like Jordan and Wade, Bryant is cranked hard to 11, a “cleaner” of the highest order. In one passage, he offers some insight into Bryant’s will:

Kobe is the same [as Jordan]; he’s insatiable in his desire to work. Some days we’ll go back to the gym twice a day and once more at night, trying different things, working on certain issues, always looking for that extra edge. At his level of excellence, there’s no room for error and no one — no one — in the game today works harder or invest more in his body and surrounds himself with the right people to keep it in peak condition.

But it’s still not easy, and Kobe makes that decision, every day, to do the work. Again: the most talented guy working harder than anyone else.

“I just wrote the blueprint for it,” Grover said. “And I know he’s going to follow it because … that’s him. I’m not trying to get publicity for the book but at age 34, it’s going to be more of a mental battle than it will be a physical battle.

“You take Derrick Rose for an example,” he said, mentioning the Chicago Bulls’ star who has yet to return from anterior cruciate ligament surgery on his left knee last May. “Doctors have cleared him to play, he’s practicing and they say he’s doing real well in practice. But it’s still that mental barrier that he hasn’t been able to go through yet.”

As for Bryant, he and Grover were in touch within hours of the mishap. How did he seem mentally?

“It’s crazy. Most people, when they have an injury like this, they don’t treat the media like he did,” Grover said. “He went in and talked to everybody, ‘Hey, this is what happened.’ He made his little rant on Facebook. Listen, so far, I think he’s in the right frame of mind. I really do.”

54 Comments

  1. Kobe says:

    KOBE WILL BE BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER

  2. Quinton Waller says:

    There was a come back in 95! This is Kobe’s comeback…. He has been looked over for a couple years now! Never has really got the deserved respect he should have from the media. They had the face they wanted to glamorize! After this, the media that said he was in the top ten or he not better than these names that he is clearly better than will have no choice but to lament him with top living legend beside his teacher. This had to happen for the storyline of the NBA! That the last of the old ballers, the young Kid that challenged everybody when he stepped on the court will make his comeback and seal his own destiny. When the greatest chooses you from day one, means he is the chosen one.

  3. Jacob says:

    Doctors: Kobe will be sidelined for 6-9 months, can’t walk for at-least one month
    Kobe: I’ll be back for the start of the season.

  4. DRinSCV says:

    Kobe wi’ll be back, probably on opening night. He’s tied with Jordan for 1st on the all-time list in strength of will.

  5. Jie says:

    Kobe will be back for sure. And he will continue remain the best player of the NBA. Best wishes. NBA will be boring without him. He is the reason why I watch the game of basketball.

  6. KOBE HE PLAY BACK BUT HE IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA

  7. Kobe Bryant will be back. I’m hoping that he will play on the opening day of 2013 – 2014 NBA Season. Go Lakers and win more NBA Championship.

    Ray
    Ray Duque III (GMBD), USA

  8. Alex says:

    A HUGE setback for Kobe but when he returns his role will be much different. It will be his chance to become even MORE of an all around player that he has become these past couple years. Look at all the other older slower guys that still play important roles on their teams!! He will probably be able to catch Jordan in points. We love you Kobe you have brought much joy to the city of Los Angeles.

  9. Hoyt Garfunkel says:

    Don’t worry. He’ll be back up and getting superstar calls and non-calls from the refs and treating women like trash in no time.

  10. LAKERSAREGARBAGE says:

    ya thats right !!
    lakers are garbage
    the most over hyped team fighting for the last seed
    it takes more than 10 months for derrick rose to get back from an acl
    hes going to come back by the beginning of next season or by 2014
    kobes beaten up, starting to get old, lakers need a new face to the franchise

    • LAKERSAREGARBAGE says:

      they should allow dwight howard to take full control.. like he did in orlando
      dwight howard is being neglected and not being pushed to his full potential
      cause its kobe’s team, its all about kobe

      if the lakers make the playoffs, they should give dwight howard more freedom to dominate on the offensive end
      and the defensive side.. we’re talking about 2x consecutive defensive POY, and hes not even given the opportunity to perform

      • LAKERSAREGARBAGE says:

        kobe should be amnestied, the lakers will be under luxury tax and they can start a new era in 2014 by offering dwight howard a max contract like he wants … that will push the lakers to top 3 in the 2014 season, until then
        LAKERS ARE GARBAGE

  11. Kurt says:

    He’ll be back, look at his drive to succeed. PPG means nothing if you aren’t motivated,

  12. True Laker Fan says:

    MANN!!!! We’re talking bout one of the greatest players to play the game!!! He started his Career with a Bang and this Injury of Kobe will just make him a lot more Confident!!! C’mon his the mamba nothin’ can stop him and one thing is for sure! Make the Playoffs or not! His Plays was Playoff like it was like watching him 6-7 years ago! He’ll be back!!! STRONGER =))
    L.A all day

  13. nizar moussa says:

    kobe is the best
    he’s the man and ganna return stronger … hopefully
    good luck kobe

  14. BIRD33 Grow up! says:

    kobe,
    wish u all the best!!
    lebron james is my favourite player but that doesnt mean
    i have to hate kobe byrant,or any other nba superstar
    im sick of all these haters!!!
    just enjoy the uniqueness of every nba superstar
    why hate?seriously why?

  15. BIRD33 Grow up! says:

    “there is no way he would of won 6 rings that for sure”

  16. BIRD33 Grow up! says:

    lebron james is a 28 year old man and he can do whatever the hell he wants!!!
    u need to move on mate,its his decision,its his choice,his life,
    he had to do what was best for his family and hes pro career
    dude if michael jordan had the same players that lebron had, there is no he
    would of won 6 rings thats for sure
    michael jordan would of done the same thing
    lebron would of never won a title if he stayed in cleveland
    grow up babyyyyyyyyy!!!!
    its part of the game,he was a free agent
    he made his decision,so live with it!!!
    put ur dummy back in your mouth!!

  17. Ted says:

    LOL at that shot at Rose. People are finally realizing that Rose is just slacking off and just collecting his max paychecks when he is medically cleared to play for quite some time already.

  18. NBA WITHOUT KOBE???…..THE MOST SKILLED, ELEGANT & HATED PLAYER OUT? END OF MY BASKETBALL WORLD…

  19. spawn0982 says:

    get well soon Kobe!! your one of the best player of the nba.. I love watching you playing.. I can see from you all the moves we’ve been seeing from jordan that’s why i want you to come back.. I know lebron is a great player right now, he should be beacuse of his big and strong body. No body can stop him if he wants too but for me about talent i don’t think he has a game and moves that people will not forget when he stop playing.. You and jordan has an ability to make defferent moves that cannot be forget.. Pls come back black mamba!!!

  20. DocnSG says:

    MJ gave us the reason to enjoy watching NBA in the peak of his career. Now it is Kobe that keep me hook in the NBA games.
    Hope to see The Mamba in the next nba season playing still at his best!!!

    RLC SG

  21. Vidro45 says:

    For sure Kobe will return, faster and stronger … You’re the best …

  22. IDIOT JOSEPH says:

    YEAH KOBE IS BETTER THAN LABRAN JAMES,, COZ LABRAN DOES NOT EXIST IN NBA OK.. YOU WANT KOBE COME BACK AND PROVE THAT HES BETTER THAN MJ AND LEBRON HEHEHE THIS IS FUNNY.. ANYWAY ANY COMPARING HERE IS NOT RECOGNIZE KOBE MJ OR KOBE LEBRON.. THE WHOLE WORLDS KNOWS WHOS THE GREAT.. IN FACT KOBE PLAYING TIME IS MUCH COZ WHY?? THEY FIGHTING FOR POSITIONING IN PLAYOFFS UNLIKE OTHERS WHOS SINGIN IN THEIR COACH COZ WE ARE IN THE TOP AND GOT THE HOME COURT ADVANTAGE RIGHT.. DONT BE IDIOT COMPARING PLAYERS OK. LOLS

  23. Bird33 says:

    As I get older and think about all the playoff battles between the Lakers and Celtics, I smile at the memories of the greats that were involved Russ, Hondo, Bird, Pierce, West, the Captain, Magic and now Kobe. While the Lakers have already been the team we love to compete and cheer against, as a life long Celtics fan I’ve come to realize that I really respect the Lakers for always being that team that had the same drive and dynasty legacy to give us dynasty fans (Celtics and Lakers) the ultimate match up.

    Those days will be on hold for a while as each team tries to rebuild around its core pieces. Like we have before…we will wait, why?….Because it is worth waiting for. 2008 was awesome and while 2009 (on my end) was painful, we still had the big show of the two greatest teams ever.

    Kobe…we will wait for you…why….because you are worth waiting for…you are part of that dynasty and legacy. As celtics fans we can all remember days when we said we hated Kobe…but if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll laugh out loud and say “no..we don’t really hate him…we hate that he beat us tonite…but we’re going to beat him the next time…you just wait!!” That is the Celtics vs Lakers legacy….Bird and Magic, yin and yang, etc.

    So..as an honest Celtics fan…Kobe, as our fiercest competitor and respected warrior on the other side of the jump ball…..God speed to your recovery…

    PS – now if this was about LeBron, I really would say good riddance – I will never forgive him for being less than a man and not apologizing to poor Cleveland for the most tasteless departure ever. If Pierce or Kobe made the same mistake, I’m confident they’d be a man, take it on the chin and publically apologize. That is what be “Great” is about. You may be the best basketball player, but you’ll never be “the Greatest” until you learn more about life and being a man and taking responsibility for your actions. Good luck with that….perhaps you still have time to become that (a) man.

    • dan'o says:

      Preech, Bird, Spoken like a real fan of the game, especially its history,,,To many more clashes between the game’s 2 top franchises!

  24. allaroundballer says:

    All his career, the way he plays. Kobe is forcing too much. Respect! But again, he works too hard this season

  25. truth says:

    He will be back no doubt, he is Kobe Bryant nuff said

  26. arnie says:

    Of course kobe is incomparable..for me he’s the best..I like his graceful move
    rather than any player … whose more more imitating KB move….
    Black Mamba is the best …no question of returning back !! he’ll do it ..that’s why
    he’s the of Nike ..JUST DO IT !!

  27. Miljan says:

    Kobe you are like superhero for all us basketball lovers , fans, sport fans and recreational players. It is impossible for us to imagine even that you can be injured like this coz you are Kobe. Anyway I support you and wish fast and good recovery, I have watching you play as 18 years old kid till this days, this in unacceptable for you to finish like this. So I believe that you will come back and amaze all the world like you doing it all this years playing the game and being who you are.
    Miljan out :)

  28. daveycr says:

    Kobe is the only freemason in the world who I actually have respect for. That says A LOT.
    Huge fan of yours Kobe, if you’re reading these comments on the couch mildly high on pain killers just know the fans love you. You never pulled “the decision” type stunts.. you’re a loyal Laker and there is a lot of respect in that. On a side note, quit the Freemason stuff, nothing cool about secret oaths and Baphomet.

  29. richard says:

    my prayers go to and your family.NBA wont be the same without you and also playoff.Your the player in the NBA universe in my book.

  30. kuriat says:

    nba will be boring if he doesnt return. goodluck kobe.. you can do it

  31. sanjay says:

    For now kobe is the closest thing we will see equal to jordan. kobe has both rings and credentials to make the claim( people forget that kobe could have had 7 rings! And more if shaq had stayed fit and both of their egos came in their way. Shaq himself could have had 2 to 3 easily. So both have lost in the feud).

    There will be plenty of great shooters, paint players and all that. Even lebron cannot be compared to jordan( despite his superior physique and equally good skills), unless he wins rings anywhere close to kobes.

    Lebron will get there but not yet( lebron need to win 3 more to be the trio).

    kobe also can join some other championship team 2 years down the line( that is also not ruled out). He has averaged nearly 27 points this season. That is ala jordan as well. come on now!

    It is serious injury all right. It is not “the serious injury per se”. We must see kobe walking in 3 weeks time! It is not “the serious injury per se”. Four weeks max( we will see him on the side court, if lakers move past first round playoffs!).
    with 6 months rest, he will back again in november! He wont do rose for sure!

  32. KOBE FAN says:

    Black mamba will return ASAP
    He is next to Jordan
    No one stands in the way from him and his 6th ring
    Go kobe
    We have faith and belive that you will return
    Go kobe and make us laker fans feelp proud that we have a great player on our team

  33. Bastian says:

    Bryant is a great player, raising the bar for any superstar who plays at 34, and I think will continue to do so.

  34. Kobe is the greatest plain and simple when he retires his name will be on the list of elite lakers such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberland, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, AC Green, Elgin Baylor, Micheal Cooper, Shaquille O Neal, The Buss Family and, Phil Jackson, the list goes on and on Kobe is the next to inharret the lakers thrown

  35. Ballin for life says:

    You know he is coming back. There is no way he wants this to be the way he is remembered in regards to how his career ended. No way!

  36. scott says:

    He will be back FASTER STRONGER he will be the bionic mamba Your a LAKER for LIFE you go MY BROTHER!!!!!!!!!

  37. Garrett says:

    This guy Kobe is the most motivated athlete in the whole sports world!!! He is the only player u see with strained this sprained that and no doubt he plays through it all. You never see any other athlete put themselves through things like that, in these days and times you consistently see players missing games because of a common cold or just a cough haha ya it’s a joke right? Kobe I think will make a comeback through all this but if he doesn’t I’m pretty sure we could all agree that he undoubtedly tried his hardest

  38. Ruel says:

    I often watch the NBa because of Kobe, he’s the only one..good luck and God bless..get well ASAP! I wanna see you play again mamba…

  39. Ruel says:

    It’s not yet time for retirement Kobe, black mamba will be back!….

  40. joseph says:

    Kobe,you the best player of all the time. and im sure your better than LaBran James and you will come back hard to finish what you have started..good luck homie..

  41. joseph says:

    good luck kobe!

  42. Dennis Caez says:

    I hope everything go well in your recuperation, I always watch you game u r want of the best ever ever to play this game, u IQ is above 100% and nobody can’t take from you. In my opinion u should be MVP 5 times in NBA.

  43. Drago says:

    Kobe is a force of nature and the problem with this Laker team is to many softies that cant show back when he grinds them.Artest is the only guy on that team that can match Kobe in intensity if not talent.Howard has steeped up these last months and he should step up some more if he wants to be a real trophy taker and not a poser.Time for boys to become men.IMO the guy that the Lakers should rally around is Gasol that man has been a leader in every team he has played on since he started playing the game.Gasol should lead and leave Howard to do his thing with 20 rebounds and 25+ points.

  44. bublo says:

    Kobe saying he’s better than Jordan isn’t true we all know this but his motivation and thirst for wins,points, titles, rings, etc., is what will bring Kobe back. Not sure if he’ll be the same but he won’t let this hold him back.

  45. Patrick says:

    He can comeback, I broke my achilles tendon a year ago, I am a sportsman too and Koby and me born in the same year and month :) I got back to slow run after 12 weeks after surgery, normal run on the same level as it was before – after 5 months and I started to play football again after 6 months. So it is all depends of his body and his mind:)

  46. jill says:

    HE’LL COME BACK. HIS MOTIVATION: I AM BETTER THAN JORDAN. ALL I NEED IS 675 POINTS. HIS EGO IN UNBELIEVABLE. HE WILL WORK HARD AND DEMONSTRATE HE IS THE ONLY ONE. GOOD LUCK KOBE. YOU CAN DO IT.

    • STUPID JILL says:

      Don’t be stupid. It is not the total points scored that shows who is better. Or do you think Kareem is the best of all-time followed by Karl Malone? Try maybe points per game…

    • Pakyaw says:

      His ego cause him this injury,he shouldn’t open his mouth and guarantee a playoff..now he has to play 48 mins just to back up his word and fight for last seed playoff spot..

      • dan'o says:

        Read the article Pakyaw… the PT Guru says “I don’t think it had anything to do with the minutes he was playing.”
        Kick rocks…

  47. garrett says:

    he is comin back go kobe !!!!!!!!!!!!