Kobe Bryant is one of the Best Athletes Ever. Two of his Secrets? Sleep and Meditation.

May 3, 2017

Kobe Bryant meditates for at least 10 minutes each day and is prioritizing sleep more and more.

Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players ever. With 18 all-star appearances, five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals and more than 33,000 career points, the history of basketball is forever altered because of him.

His secret? Sleep and meditation.

Although it wasn’t always that way. Or so he explains in a LinkedIn Learning class he taught on the subject.

How meditation launched Bryant’s career

Meditation came into Bryant’s life in 2000, via new Los Angeles Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. Jackson – widely regarded as one of the best coaches ever – required all of his players to meditate when he took over the team.

“It wasn’t an option for us,” Bryant said in his course. “We’d sit in our film room and (Jackson) would turn the lights out and we would meditate as a group.”

In the two years before Jackson arrived to the Lakers, the team was highly talented but ultimately disappointing, never playing for a championship. In the three seasons after Jackson became coach of the team and instituted group meditation, the Lakers won three consecutive NBA titles.

What did that meditation mean to those Lakers teams?

“Seeing the poise that we played with, the fact that we can be in a hostile environment with fans yelling and screaming and pressure situations, and it having no effect on us,” Bryant said. “Because we were never too high or too low, we were just in the moment and felt very secure in who we are.”

Bryant continues to meditate each morning for about 10 or 15 minutes. Why?

“I think it’s important because it sets me up for the rest of the day,” Bryant said. “It’s like having an anchor. If I don’t do it, it feels like I’m constantly chasing the day, as opposed to being controlled and dictate the day.”

How sleep buoyed Bryant’s later career

Even while he was winning his first three championships, Bryant admitted his sleep habits were “horrendous.” In his early twenties, he’d sleep two or three hours a night.

“I’ve always had a hard time sleeping,” Bryant said in his course. “I couldn’t figure out how to shut my brain off.”

As his career progressed and he got slightly older, those poor sleep habits began to catch up with him. Specifically, Bryant began to “play like crap” – a relative term, he was still a great player, just not winning championships – despite his intense workouts.

“I was feeling sluggish, I was feeling lethargic,” Bryant said. “And I knew it wasn’t because of my training, because I trained obsessively. So then I started looking at other things. And that's when I came to realization that, ‘hey Kob’, you are not 21-years-old anymore, buddy, maybe the fact that you are sleeping two, three hours a night has something to do with the fact that you’re playing like crap’.”

So Bryant challenged himself to get more sleep each night and the results speak for themselves. Despite his advancing age and a less talented team around him, in 2009 and 2010 Bryant won two more NBA championships, forever forging his place as one of the greatest athletes ever.

What this means to you

Chances are, you aren’t a professional basketball player. And chances are, your goal isn’t to become one.

But the same lessons Bryant applied to basketball can apply to anyone doing anything. A salesperson, for example, can benefit from more sleep in the same way Bryant did. Or a software engineer can design more eloquent code from meditation, in the same way it helped Bryant sink more three pointers.

The point is these things matter and make a huge affect on your performance, regardless of your industry or vertical. It just comes down to prioritization.

*Image from Keith Allison, Flickr

Kobe Bryant's class is part of a series of LinkedIn Learning courses on living life with more meaning, joy and peace. Watch them all here.