R.S. De France is a College and University instructor of English Composition. He has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing. One of his life-long pursuits has been writing and covering anything related to sports, specifically the NBA. Recently, De France, his wife, and another colleague started an internationally read magazine at Shwibly.com.
As a fan of the NBA, you hardly ever get a real inside glimpse of the athletes themselves. Sure, once I shook hands with Michael Cooper, A.C. Green, Byron Scott, and Michael Thompson through basketball summer camps and other events. But, I would not say that provided much insight into their upcoming seasons. Recently, I was lucky enough to watch something completely different—a great athlete, at his peak, preparing for the next season.
Nearby his Newport Beach home, Kobe Bryant swims laps. Day and night. Bryant works out in Irvine with a local assistant basketball coach, when he can avoid the crowds of people and spectators. There were only a handful of people in the pool area when I walked in. As he swam, he alternated between different strokes. Kobe did not overwork himself, but took a steady stride to his off-season training. Like teammate and friend Derek Fisher, Bryant, now 31, has to take a more measured approach to his workouts.
During the regular season, Fox Sports West reported that Derek Fisher, on his trainer’s advice, was using the elliptical machine more and a running machine less. This creates less tension on the knees and joints. Similarly, swimming is a great low-impact workout that is also easy on an athlete’s body.
A summer when Bryant should be revered for his and the Los Angeles Lakers’ accomplishment of winning the 2009 NBA title, critics and writers have pondered about the challenges the up-coming 2009-2010 season will present as the Lakers undertake another title defense. Stronger competition. Life without Ariza. All that mileage on Kobe Bryant’s legs. Complacency. The chemistry issue with bringing in Ron Artest.
Watching his workout, I could tell Bryant still looks in season shape. His muscles are toned, his body lean. Clearly, he is still motivated, still hungry. This made me think back to the summer after he and Shaquille O’Neil won their 1st of their three-peat run of championships. Shaq spent the summer and most of the preseason loafing around and taking it easy. Bryant worked desperately to improve, to advance his game. Then, Shaq was seasoned and Bryant was still growing as a player, but even now, after playing 13 seasons, winning 4 championships and his 1st without Shaq, Kobe is neither resting on his accomplishments, nor taking it easy. He’s working, working every minute.
Laker fans should no longer be concerned about chemistry issues—they’ll work it out. Bryant still has the desire to win, to compete. And the mileage? He’s clearly taking care of his body with plenty of low-impact workouts, ideal for a seasoned veteran.
After finishing some laps, Kobe Bryant pauses by the side of the pool to ask his assistant what he had left on his workout list. He asked the same question many are wondering about his career: “What’s next?”