At Sunday night's 90th annual Academy Awards, Kobe Bryant won another trophy to add to his cabinet; this one for the Oscar in the Best Animated Short category. This accolade was received for his contributions to the animated short "Dear Basketball," based on a poem he wrote in 2015 announcing his impending retirement from basketball.
Let's look again at his list of credentials: Bryant was called "one of the greatest players in the history of our game" by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, New York Times wrote that he has had "one of the most decorated careers in the history of the sport and multiple media outlets named him their NBA player of the decade for the 2000s. An 18 time All Star, he has been chosen a record 18 straight times, each time as a starter. He is the Lakers' all-time leading scorer, twice NBA Finals MVP, and his five titles are tied for the most in franchise history for which he has both #8 and #24 retired.
However, when it comes to having true, natural grit, there are very few individuals that can compare to the newly Oscar winning basketball legend. Remembering the definition from Angela Duckworth, "Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals; grit is about having what some researchers call an ultimate concern–a goal you care about so much that it organises and gives meaning to almost everything you do...To be gritty is to have a well-organised pyramid of goals and what researchers call an ultimate concern, a goal that you are (persistent and determined) about.”.
Intrinsic motivation leads to greater persistence, improved performance and enhanced well-being in a physical setting; this would help support Duckworth’s research of grit whereby working towards singularly important goals being the hallmark of high achievers in every domain. Bryant verbalises grit throughout this short movie; he talks of the "sweat and hurt", giving all that he had, displaying perseverance which could be displayed when late in his career, after suffering from an Achilles tendon injury, Kobe managed to face this challenge head on. He dug deep, had confidence and came back from his injury at a time in his career when most people just assumed he would retire. He describes how his mind is still strong yet it was his body having to say goodbye, almost blaming his body for having to leave the game he loves.
He talked about his passion and deep love for the game, something that came from his "spirit and soul", the game that made him feel alive and started with a 6 year old's dream. His passion was strengthened by the now famous story about Kobe Bryant’s workout regimen that was highlighted when he was training for the Olympics. A short version of the story highlights how Bryant got up at 4:15 AM to do conditioning, weight training and to shoot and make 800 shots, all before practice began. Bryant got up, practiced on his own for 7 hours before anyone else on an Olympic team showed up to start.
Remembering grit predicts achievement in really challenging and personally meaningful contexts, their ability and effort is not differentiated by others and the perceived ability is self-determined and success only realised when mastery is achieved. Bryant later told reporters in the interview room after receiving the award, "I feel better than winning a championship, to be honest with you. I swear I do.'' When he told people he wanted to write and tell stories after retiring from basketball, Bryant said the reaction was, "That's cute. You'll be depressed when your career's over. To be here now and have this sense of validation, this is crazy, man." Bryant clearly has taken to his second career, saying he is also working on a series of novels, adding: "I wake up in the morning, I can't wait to write, I can't wait to get to the studio."
You can take the champion out of the fight but you'll never take the fight (or grit) out of the champion...