Legendary Sports Trainer Tim Grover Talks Jordan, Kobe, and Gives Words of Wisdom


"No one knows more than Tim Grover about competitive intensity, killer instinct, and crushing the other guy. He is the best at what he does: creating champions."

Those were the words of none other than Charles Barkley, one of many famous athletes who trained with the legendary Tim Grover.

Grover, who owns Attack Athletics in Chicago, started off working with Michael Jordan. He would eventually launch a highly successful career of helping athletes rehab their injuries and improve their mental focus. Dwyane Wade went to him for advice during the NBA Finals last year, and former Warriors guard Gilbert Arenas credited Grover with saving his career after a knee injury.

In his book titled Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable that will be released this coming Tuesday, Grover reveals his philosophies, breaking down what it takes to be “unstoppable.”  He shares never-told-before stories on the lives of his most famous clients, and proves that anybody — even the average person — can become “relentless” at what they do.

“It’s a culmination of over 20 years of experience working with the most elite athletes in the sport of basketball,” said Grover when asked about the inspiration behind writing the book. “It’s how they think, how they’re mentally prepared for every situation that arises to them, and the preparation that comes up really from the neck up, not from the neck down. Being able to let people know that no matter what you do you can apply this in everyday life and everyday activities, no matter what job you’re at.”

A “Cleaner” is someone who pushes themselves harder when everyone else has had enough.

Throughout the book, Grover rants and raves about “Cleaners,” or people who rise above the rest based on their work ethic, dedication, and perseverance.

For example, take this excerpt, when he compares “Cleaners” to the other categories, “Closers” and “Coolers.”

"A Cooler takes no risks.A Closer takes risks when he can prepare in advance and knows the consequences of failing are minimal.Nothing feels risky for a Cleaner; whatever happens, he’ll know what to do."

“A cleaner is the most ultimate competitor that’s out there,” Grover stated. “They keep pushing themselves when everybody else has had enough, they know exactly who they are, and they don’t run from pressure — they actually thrive from it. It’s a level above what everyone else calls a closer in business or a closer in sports.”

Grover admits that there is no such thing as a “perfect role model” when it comes to Cleaners, as “a lot of the things a cleaner does is not a perfect lifestyle.”

However, if he had to select someone, very few people would argue with his choice.

Why Michael Jordan hired Grover 

Courtesy: Porter Binks, USA TODAY

Grover first met Jordan at the superstar’s home in 1989, and laid out a revolutionary workout plan for him to follow. He explained how his tactics would help Jordan become “stronger and minimize his risks of injury,” and how “every physical change would affect his shot.”

Jordan listened for about an hour before responding, “Not possible. It’s too good. It just doesn’t sound right.”

Grover pleaded with Jordan to try it out for 30 days. The two ended up working together for 15 years.

How this trainer at a Chicago health club with a masters in exercise science ended up giving advice to the greatest basketball player in the world is, in itself, a fascinating and relentless story.

“I always said if I ever got a chance to sit down with him, I knew I could help him,” recalled Grover, who followed Jordan as early as his days with the North Carolina Tar Heels and knew that he would be a superstar one day.

Grover contacted the Bulls several times throughout the 1980s, hoping for a chance to train any of their players. Time and time again, he was turned away.

However, like a Cleaner, Grover was not deterred.

“The worst thing they can say is ‘no,’ but if you didn’t go out and give that opportunity to hear that ‘no,’ you’re never going to hear that ‘yes’ ,” he said.

That golden opportunity came in 1989, when he saw a small newspaper story about how Jordan was tired of being “outmuscled” by Bill Laimbeer and the “Bad Boy Pistons” who won the championship that year.

Grover again met with the Bulls with hopes of landing Jordan on his client list, and a few days later, Jordan asked the Bulls training staff to find him someone who could help him “take his body to the ultimate level.”

Before he knew it, Grover was summoned to Jordan’s home, and the rest is history.

The fuel that ignited the fire 

You may have heard of the story of Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team. That event is what Grover believes ignited an inner fire in Jordan, one that wouldn’t stop burning until he reached his ultimate goal.

“I really think the defining moment for Michael was when he got cut from his varsity basketball team as a sophomore,” said Grover. “The feeling that he had after not making the team, it was the first thing that compelled him to reach new heights each time.”

Essentially, whoever decided it would be a good idea to cut Jordan back in high school deserves the credit for the illustrious career of the greatest player to ever put on an NBA uniform.

Even today, Grover claims that the 50-year-old Jordan could play professional basketball, boldly stating: “If he got himself in shape and started to work out again, there’s no question in my mind he could be very competitive in the NBA.”

Kobe vs. Jordan

Courtesy: US Presswire / USA Today

The Kobe Bryant vs. Jordan debate is one that has dragged on for years and years. Countless forum discussions, Youtube comments, Facebook posts, and Twitter updates later, and we still haven’t decided on a verdict.

So what does the man who has a deep relationship with Bryant and Jordan — and trained both of them — have to say about it?

“From a mental, toughness, and relentless standpoint, they’re equal,” said Grover. “They think differently than other people. They are willing to go beyond the obvious.”

Grover admires their “inner drive,” or lack thereof:

"Everyone always talks about inner drive, and I try to tell people, ‘Neither one of them has inner drive’ and people tell them I’m crazy. Inner drive is thought without action. They don’t think about what they’re doing, they go out and do it, and they do it so well that they don’t have to think about it anymore. There’s a huge difference there than what people think these guys have."

However, there is something that separates one legend from the other.

"They both are relentless in achieving that ultimate goal: the end result, but they like to go about it a different way. Michael just wanted to see the end result. He didn’t want to know the plan that was used to get there or the training method. He goes “hey, just get me right and that’s your job, I’m not worried about the rest.”Kobe likes to know all the different details that are involved. He wants to know everything that’s involved and going on along the way. They both are trying to attain the same result, but they just go about it in a different way. From a competitive standpoint, they’re very equal."

We can look at the stats all we want, and claim that Jordan has won more rings, more MVPs, and more scoring titles.

Numbers, however, are just simply that: numbers, which don’t tell the whole story.

As Grover points out, it’s the worth ethic and perseverance that separates the men from the boys. Both Jordan and Bryant are ultimate cleaners who stood out from everyone else in their respective eras, and if it were up to Grover, he would leave the debate at that.

Tim Grover: Relentless in his own right

There is a reason why athlete after athlete comes to Grover for help with rehabbing an injury, or just to improve their mental toughness. Grover brings out the best in his clients, pushing them to the limits and being relentless in his efforts.

“My goal is the same as theirs: the focus is on the end result,” Grover said when asked why he is so popular amongst athletes. “My job is to help them achieve the end result — not as efficiently as people would like — but it’s more effectiveness. That’s what I bring to the table. There are a whole bunch of people out there that are efficient, but my job is to be extremely effective and that’s what I bring.”

Courtesy: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Which explains why he is already hard at work designing a rehab plan for Bryant, who, hours after we interviewed Grover, ruptured his Achilles tendon on Friday night in a game against the Warriors that could threaten his career.

“It started as soon as he went down yesterday,” Grover told CBSSports. “I literally have not slept, doing my research on it and making my different contacts and getting all my resources together and so forth. Whenever he says, ‘Go,’ I’m ready.”

According to the report, Grover spoke with Bryant and the superstar is “fully on board” with fighting to come back.

“We’ll have to see,” Grover said. “It’s not an easy process. It’s not an impossible process; it’s been done many times before, and I believe he can be as well as he was before. But it’s definitely a long, tedious process.”

If there is anyone who is well-equipped to believe that Bryant will make a triumphant return, it’s Grover. He has made a career out of helping athletes recover from injuries, and there is no doubt that he will ensure the Laker superstar makes a full recovery.

Words of Wisdom

To conclude this piece, we asked Grover the one piece of advice that he hoped people would take away from his book.

His response was a gem; words of wisdom that anyone — not just athletes– but anyone, should follow in order to succeed:

"Anybody can be a cleaner, but in order to be a cleaner, you have to do the work. You can’t think about the work, you have to get up and you have to do the work, and if you do the work, the results will follow. You have to trust in yourself, trust in your instinct. Go with your gut, be well prepared, and you can achieve that goal that you’re looking for."