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Tiger Woods opens up on what he learned from Kobe Bryant

January 27, 2020

When Tiger Woods still owned a house in Newport Beach, Calif., he would see Kobe Bryant regularly. The two would work out and hang out together, the lifelong Lakers fan with the all-time Lakers legend. As time passed and Woods moved to Florida, the two saw less of each other. But Woods said the two had reconnected in Bryant’s retirement, bonding over early-morning Equinox workouts.

On Sunday, Woods was informed of Bryant’s tragic death just after his final round at the Farmers Insurance Open and immediately reflected on their time together — and what he learned from the 18-time NBA All-Star.

“We really connected on more the mental side of it, the prep, how much it takes to be prepared,” Woods told CBS’ Amanda Balionis immediately after his round. “For me, I don’t have to react like he does in my sport, we can take our time, but you’ve still got to pay attention to the details and that’s what he did better than probably any other player in NBA history.”

Superstar athlete to superstar athlete, that’s what impressed Woods the most about Bryant: his commitment to focusing on the nitty-gritty, refusing to settle into a cushy celebrity life, always looking to maintain his edge.

“He paid attention to the details, the little things. The amount of hours that he spent in the gym in the offseason and during the summers to work on shots and do all the different things, it looked like it came natural to him on the court during game time, but he spent more hours looking at film and trying to figure out what’s the best way to become better.

“That’s where he and I really connected, because we’re very similar. We both came in the league — well, he came in the league and I turned pro right around the same time and we had our 20-year run together. It’s shocking.”

Woods added later that he particularly admired Bryant’s tenacity on defense. “What made him so impressive is that he was dominant on the offensive side, yeah, we know that, but he would lock up on D. He played their best guard and shut ’em down for all 48 minutes. That’s what made him so special, he played both ends of the court.”

One example of the toughness Woods admired so much came in April 2013, when Bryant suffered an Achilles tear mid-game but stayed in to make two free throws before leaving for treatment. Five years earlier, Woods had won the U.S. Open on a torn Achilles.

“And one of the more impressive things that I’ve ever witnessed is when he ruptured his Achilles and he went to the foul line, made his shots. Ultimate toughness, ultimate competitor, and one of the most shocking, tragic days that I’ve ever been a part of in a very quick span here.”

One phrase sticks out from the quotes above: “We’re very similar.” It’s not one you’ll hear often from Tiger Woods. There aren’t many people that are like Woods, just as there are very few people like Kobe Bryant. But on Sunday, Woods was just like millions of others around the world: mourning the shocking death of a man who seemed very much in his prime of life.

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