The Man Behind the Success of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade

Kevin DingNBA Senior WriterMay 14, 2013

Feb 10, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) and Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 107-97. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine you have Michael Jordan’s career, and then instead of stopping the legend there with those six NBA championships (and veering into a rather embarrassing next stage with whopping failures as an executive with the Wizards and Bobcats), you keep going.

You win a couple more titles as Dwyane Wade. You win a couple more titles as Kobe Bryant.

That is essentially the career that Tim Grover has had. So far.

There’s no biological clock keeping him from propping up more and more legends in the future. But so far, Grover was Jordan’s personal trainer. He moved on to begin tutoring Wade and Bryant, who remain active devotees, along with a slew of other pros.

Being around those guys who have three of the greatest motors in NBA history gives Grover automatic legitimacy to tell stories. Except the truth is that Grover hasn’t just been some hanger-on; he has revved those motors higher and kept them finely tuned.

Grover understands excellence and how to achieve it, which is why anyone who has been inspired by the careers of Jordan, Wade and Bryant would be wise to pick up a copy of Grover’s book, "Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable."

The truth is that the book is not meant for anyone around the NBA as much as it is for regular people who admire the pursuit of excellence and want to understand how it works.

Grover is planning another book, "Jump Attack," which details the physical steps over 12 weeks to do the same sort of legs-arms-core workout that vaulted Jordan and others to their heights. Those fundamental workouts were the crux of what Grover used to bring Wade and his damaged left knee back to life in the middle of the 2012 NBA Finals—a series won with Wade stepping up instead of stepping aside to depend on teammate LeBron James.

Now that Wade’s right knee is so damaged that he seems questionable to step back up in what is supposed to be another Miami title run, it’ll be interesting to see what he can will himself to do through the bone bruises and the need for rest.

"Jump Attack" will probably help plenty of athletes, but no one becomes Jordan, Wade or Bryant without having a mountainous mental edge, as is chronicled in "Relentless." I told Grover while reading an advance copy of the book months ago that I was really glad he made the book so practical, insightful and downright useful for the average citizens who are open-minded, self-aware and wanting much more.

Even though every NBA fan obsesses over what legendary basketball players can do on the court, step back from the breathtaking on-stage pyrotechnics and you see how much honest inspiration lies in Grover alone. He is the regular guy who overcame his basketball ACL tear and series of health problems, and rode his own relentlessness to become elite in his field—which is what he wants more of you to do.

That is precisely the way I’ve summed up Bryant’s take on teammates, opponents and all of humanity in the past. Kobe does what he does for himself. But he also does it to show you that you are capable of more, too.

Grover’s ability to earn the respect of and connect with insane achievers such as Bryant and Jordan gives him unique access to explaining it—and maximizing it.

If you want a graphic example of just how much Grover has Bryant’s ear, consider this:

Exactly one week before Bryant’s season ended in stunning fashion with that ruptured Achilles’ tendon as he again tried to play the whole game against Golden State, Bryant actually took some pretty normal rests in the Lakers’ 86-84 victory over Memphis.

It was Grover who convinced Bryant—the same guy who said of Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni controlling his minutes: “Mike’s really going to tell me when to go in and out of the game?!”—that it was time to scale back a little.

The Achilles tear meant Bryant was never on the NBA’s playoff grid this season, and now we’re watching Wade limp his way through. But in "Relentless," Grover details how Wade limped through the playoffs a year ago, too—with July 9 surgery on that left knee the proof of the damage.

Again, though, what came before the surgery? The parade.

And again, no doubt that Wade needs his legs to explode off picks and can’t get by simply on his shaky shooting stroke. But he is one of the sport’s all-time mental giants.

He finds a way, and that kind of drive lifts up entire teams, not just oneself.

This is a pretty good time to share something Grover thinks about that other 2012 NBA Finals qualifier: As brilliant at basketball as Kevin Durant is, Russell Westbrook’s absolute fearlessness is the driving force behind Oklahoma City’s fighting spirit.

Too bad the body doesn’t always cooperate, even with the strongest of minds.

But to the strongest of minds, that just means you’ll always have motivation.


Kevin Ding has been a sportswriter covering the NBA and Los Angeles Lakers for since 1999. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinDing.