What Kobe Bryant taught me as an investor: The Work

On January 26, 2019, Sunday afternoon, I had lunch with a prospective client. My phone was in my jacket, but I could hear it vibrating as the meeting went on. I was wondering what the urgency was with all those messages. I checked my messages an hour later and found out that the missed messages related to the death of Kobe Bryant.

One of my friends sent me a late-breaking piece, and I assumed it wasn’t true. I was under the impression that social media was jumping to conclusions. I went to various social media sites and popular news media, but I stumbled upon the same inevitable truth. I wanted to feel as if Kobe was still around, so I continued to watch replays, replays and other Kobe replays.

I was in disbelief all day and I wanted more news to report that it was just a minor accident. It was heart-wrenching to hear that his daughter died in a helicopter accident with him. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to experience a devastating helicopter crash like Kobe’s family did. Kobe has been such an inspiration to me, and I shall miss him very much. Anyone can identify with Kobe because he was genuine. There was no denying Kobe’s passion, and the way he lived his life was inspirational.

Who Was Kobe Bryant?

Kobe Bryant was the youngest 17-year-old from high school going into NBA professional basketball. At the beginning of his career, Bryant didn’t have a lot of chances to play even though he had more potential than most of his teammates. When he got a chance to play regularly, NBA fans saw flashes of his swag and skill. As Kobe Bryant’s career progressed, he was unquestionably destined for greatness.

Eighteen years ago, in 2002, I was lucky enough to see Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan play in the NBA. That was my first time at a NBA game. It was a home match in Washington, DC; the Wizards led by Michael Jordan against the Lakers led by Kobe Bryant.

The match was very tight, but the Wizards beat the Lakers in the last few seconds. In this game, MJ told Kobe he could ‘wear those shoes, but never fulfills them.’ Michael Jordan’s critique irritated Kobe so much that he stopped communicating with his team for two weeks. In the next match against the Wizards, the Lakers won with Kobe retaliating by 55 points.

Michael Jordan VS Kobe Bryant – 2002.11.08

There were a lot of similar stories about Kobe’s revenge game, where he always figured out ways to get ahead and improve his skills. Kobe’s work ethic and pursuit of wisdom and knowledge led to 5 NBA championships and a lengthy list of legendary achievements.

Discipline & Work ethics 
Kobe Bryant’s work ethics are legendary. The best moments of his career were not on ESPN; it was early in the morning and the dark nights where Kobe would practise more than anyone. Kobe was always the first and last player to come and leave the gym. Kobe strictly follows a workout regimen. While injured, he found ways to practice, such as working on his weakness or using his uninjured hand. There was no off-season for Bryant; his summer training sessions have traditionally been just as intense as regular seasons. Working hard, both on-the-court and off-the-court, was a consistent effort. Kobe Bryant lived and demonstrated the meaning of perseverance and hard work.

Talent can only take one’s profession so far in their career. For instance, most starting players in the NBA have the potential to score 20 points per game and some have scored a 20-point game, but most players cannot consistently perform at that high of a level every night. Just as most investors will have some years of beating the marketplace in their lifetime, but most investors cannot consistently beat the market average over a lifetime. Those few who can consistently perform at a high level shared one trait: hard work.

Bryant believes he should work hard as if he never possessed any talent. Why is Kobe Bryant such a hard worker? “To think of me as a person that’s overachieved, that would mean a lot to me. That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could.”

Hard work is about commitment and there are no substitutes for hard work.

Blackberry (BB) had all the resources to compete against Apple (AAPL), but it has been truncated by a lack of innovation and it is no longer relevant in the phone industry. Blackberry attempted to recapture its market share with a rushed, unfinished smartphone… Blackberry simply did not put in enough R&D nor provided the engineering team enough time to deliver the promised features. Apple won already; Blackberry could never rival the same hours of commitment.

Actively Seeking Wisdom and Knowledge

Kobe was resourceful to leverage every tool to make him a better basketball player. Kobe watched soccer and realized soccer players had a unique freedom of movement. He noticed that soccer players used more ankle torque than basketball players, but they suffered less or the same probability of ankle injuries. Kobe started researching information to improve his signature shoe. He requested Nike to remove a few millimeters off the shoe’s sole to deliver better traction and incorporate the soccer shoe’s advantages. The new signature shoes resulted in a low top that features structural ankle support, improved traction, and response time.

Bryant would cold call basketball players and business leaders to learn about their success. He studied how animal predators would attack a pray to incorporate movements into his jump shots and studied psychology to mentally mess with his opponents. Kobe would study players’ weaknesses and studied the referee’s foul calls. Some would describe Kobe’s behavior as erratic, but champions in the same pedigree would view this obsession as very normal and even useful. 

Many successful people have an obsession about their work, it’s a very common trait that is found in leaders, business professionals, and investors. For example, Sam Walton immersed himself in the wisdom of all he could, from competitors to junior associates at Walmart. Walton took advantage of every opportunity to enhance business. The Walmart business model is built on low prices and efficiency. Another example is Elon Musk, he was months away from bankruptcy and he spent months sleeping in the Tesla factory to turn around the company. Warren Buffett searched 10,000 pages of Moody’s manual to become familiar with each public company. Once he found a few suitable investments, he would study everything he possibly could about these companies and invest accordingly.

Champions are continually growing and developing better skills. In a world of sports, championships are determined by a fraction of a second, one snap, one turnover, or other marginal variables.

In the world of investment, marginal variables are going to determine million dollars of earnings or a path towards bankruptcy.

Kobe Bryant’s dedication to basketball is inspirational. He influenced people and shared his wisdom. Bryant’s Mamba mentality is to work hard and live up to your potential.

Kobe believes he should always work hard as if he never possessed any talent.

Published by

Agarwood Capital

AgarWood Capital is a firm built on fundamental research that invests in value-growth equity securities. Our focus is research-driven with practical insights influenced by psychology, marketing, and technology disruption.

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