One of the more intriguing stories this NFL season will take place out west, as cornerback Richard Sherman looks to rebound from injury with the same team he tormented for many years with the Seattle Seahawks. Now a member of the San Francisco 49ers, Sherman told ESPN how he drew motivation from an unlikely volcano: former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
Kobe’s intensity remains unmatched
No one in sports practiced with the intensity of Kobe Bryant. You know that going into any interaction with the guy. So when Sherman ruptured his Achilles in November 2017 and then took Kobe’s call checking on him, Sherman had to know there wouldn’t be any false sympathy.
“When I first called to check on him I said, ‘Are you all right? I want to make sure you’re not being a baby about it,’” Bryant told ESPN.
No, Sherman wasn’t being a baby. This was serious, and it marked the end of his time in Seattle. Sherman would describe Bryant’s motivation as “essential” in his recovery, not only because of Bryant’s hell-bent personality, but because of history: Bryant suffered the exact same injury himself in 2013, and knew the long road to recovery. Bryant famously stayed in the game where he suffered the injury and shot two free throws; Sherman says he walked off the field against Arizona for the exact same reason.
“He and I had a previous relationship and talked and texted all the time,” Sherman said. “So he gave me some pointers and things I needed to do early on in the process to make sure that I expedited the healing process and I was more proactive than reactive. I think that was one of the big things.”
Kobe Bryant, Jedi master
Bryant told ESPN that he wanted to ensure Sherman had the right mindset heading into the long, arduous road of Achilles-tear recovery.
“The most important part is not looking at the finish line,” Bryant said. “It’s so far away, it’s like starting at the base of Everest and you’re looking up at the summit. That’s big. That’s what the Achilles injury is like, man, it’s tough. You can’t think about the finish line. You have to just think about the day that’s right here in front of you now. You put one foot in front of the other and then next thing you know, time has gone by and you’re at the top of the mountain. But you have got to just take it one step at a time.”
And the lessons stuck. “You can look at it like, ‘Damn, woe is me, why did this happen to me and oh my God, why did I have to go through this?'” Sherman said. “Or you can look at it as ‘Man, I needed another great challenge and I needed another mountain to climb and I look forward to climbing that mountain.’ So that’s the way I treated it every day, as another step, another growth.”
It’s yet to be seen if Sherman, now 30, can regain the explosive force that made him an absolute terror as a member of the now-bygone Legion of Boom.
“His mentality is what separates him,” Bryant said. “From being overlooked, from being kind of thought of as someone who won’t be able to maximize his potential, I think he uses that as fuel to drive him and propel him.
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