Michael Jordan Talking About His Trainer: “I Don’t Pay Grover To Train Me. I Pay Him Not To Train Anybody Else.’”
“In 2007 Kobe actually reached out to Michael and said, ‘listen, I’m having a lot of issues with my knees and he goes you got any recommendation?’ And Michael said, ‘listen this is not what I do, but I’m not using Grover anymore.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you give him a call?’”
This is curious knowing that Jordan wouldn’t give this recommendation to anybody else but he was retired and this was Kobe Bryant we’re talking about. So things were different when it came to the Black Mamba (4:15).
“It was funny because when Michael was playing, he would always say, ‘listen I don’t pay Grover to train me. I pay him not to train anybody else.’”
“You know the relationship and the work ethic that MJ saw in Kobe. He said, ‘This would be a perfect fit.’…’Why don’t you give him a try?’ I flew out to LA. We talked about some things and he explained to me what was going on. He introduced me to the members of his personal performance team and we made some adjustments there.”
After that, Kobe really took off, having a second youth with the Lakers. He took them to win two more NBA championships, finishing his career with five rings and Grover played a significant role.
It’s not a secret that he owns a lot to MJ, and this is another case where the Chicago Bulls legend helped Kobe improve his game and reach the next level.
Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963), also known by his initials MJ, is an American businessman and former professional basketball player. He is the principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and of 23XI Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. He played 15 seasons in the NBA, winning six championships with the Chicago Bulls. His biography on the official NBA website states: “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.” He was integral in helping to popularize the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming a global cultural icon in the process.
Jordan played college basketball for three seasons under coach Dean Smith with the North Carolina Tar Heels. As a freshman, he was a member of the Tar Heels’ national championship team in 1982. Jordan joined the Bulls in 1984 as the third overall draft pick, and quickly emerged as a league star, entertaining crowds with his prolific scoring while gaining a reputation as one of the game’s best defensive players. His leaping ability, demonstrated by performing slam dunks from the free throw line in Slam Dunk Contests, earned him the nicknames “Air Jordan” and “His Airness”. Jordan won his first NBA championship with the Bulls in 1991, and followed that achievement with titles in 1992 and 1993, securing a “three-peat“. Jordan abruptly retired from basketball before the 1993–94 NBA season to play Minor League Baseball but returned to the Bulls in March 1995 and led them to three more championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998 as well as a then-record 72 regular season wins in the 1995–96 NBA season. He retired for a second time in January 1999 but returned for two more NBA seasons from 2001 to 2003 as a member of the Washington Wizards.
Jordan’s individual accolades and accomplishments include six NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, ten scoring titles (both all-time records), five MVP Awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game selections, three All-Star Game MVP Awards, three steals titles, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He holds the NBA records for career regular season scoring average (30.12 points per game) and career playoff scoring average (33.45 points per game). In 1999, he was named the 20th century’s greatest North American athlete by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press‘ list of athletes of the century. Jordan was twice inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, once in 2009 for his individual career and again in 2010 as part of the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team (“The Dream Team”). He became a member of the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015.
One of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation, Jordan is also known for his product endorsements. He fueled the success of Nike‘s Air Jordan sneakers, which were introduced in 1984 and remain popular today. Jordan also starred as himself in the 1996 live-action animated film Space Jam, and is the central focus of the Emmy Award-winning documentary miniseries The Last Dance (2020). He became part-owner and head of basketball operations for the Charlotte Bobcats (now named the Hornets) in 2006, and bought a controlling interest in 2010. In 2014, Jordan became the first billionaire player in NBA history. With a net worth of $2.1 billion, he is the fourth-richest African American, behind Robert F. Smith, David Steward, and Oprah Winfrey.
The Difference Between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, Explained By the Man Who Trained Both of Them
In 2007, a handful of years after Michael Jordan‘s second retirement from the NBA, his longtime trainer Tim Grover started working with a new client: Kobe Bryant.
Bryant had, by then, established himself as the heir apparent to MJ—a three-time champion (two more titles to come), with a remarkably similar skillset and mindset. And by 2007, 11 years into his pro career, Bryant’s knees were killing him.
“This guy’s pain tolerance was off the charts,” Grover says.
For the latest episode of The Assist on GQ Sports—originally recorded in November 2019, a few months before Bryant’s tragic death—Grover recalls how he helped Kobe completely reconstruct his training routine, and what he learned about Kobe in the process.
“His biggest obsession was to have more championships than Michael,” Grover says. “If you asked him when he was going to retire, he’d say, ‘After [championship] number seven.’”
Grover ultimately worked with Bryant from 2007 to 2012. He discovered that Bryant’s relentless pursuit of success had left him with a major deficit between his ability to accelerate on the court, which was off the charts, and his ability to de-accelerate, which had long been neglected and was causing knee issues.
Bryant was always ready and willing to listen to Grover’s advice, but couldn’t stop himself from making some… adjustments along the way, too.
“One of the biggest differences between the two is Michael always knew when it was enough,” Grover says. “And he would listen to you. If you said, ‘That’s it,’ then that’s it. With Kobe, to him, ‘That’s it’ means that’s it for that moment, but three hours later, I can start back up again.”
Check out the full video below, which includes more comparisons between MJ and Bryant, and more one-of-a-kind Kobe stories, like the 4:30 am bike ride he put together in Las Vegas before the 2008 Olympic Games.