Kobe is always getting compared to the MJ of the hardwood, but in fact, another MJ may have helped to shape him more than we previously realized. Yahoo! has a fantastic piece on the relationship between Bryant and the late King of Pop (be sure to read the whole thing): “Bryant was the 18-year-old wonder for the Los Angeles Lakers, and no one knew what to make of a restlessness borne of a desperate desire for greatness. ‘He noticed I was getting a lot of [expletive] for being different,’ Bryant said. They would talk for hours and hours, visiting at Neverland Ranch, and Bryant has long been fortified by the lessons Jackson instilled about the burden of honoring true talent, about the ways to open your mind to be smarter, sharper and insatiable in the chase. ‘It sounds weird, I guess, but it’s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson,’ Bryant said … ‘We would always talk about how he prepared to make his music, how he prepared for concerts,’ Bryant said. ‘He would teach me what he did: How to make a ‘Thriller’ album, a ‘Bad’ album, all the details that went into it. It was all the validation that I needed – to know that I had to focus on my craft and never waver. Because what he did – and how he did it – was psychotic. He helped me get to a level where I was able to win three titles playing with Shaq because of my preparation, my study. And it’s only all grown. That’s the mentality that I have – it’s not an athletic one. It’s not from [Michael] Jordan. It’s not from other athletes. It’s from Michael Jackson.’”