Michael Jackson

Kobe's connection to MJ has been well-documented. But this time, we're not talking about the MJ of the basketball world. Long ago, Kobe actually got a little help from pop star Michael Jackson.

As Bryant shares with HBO's "Real Sports," the Lakers star was once an 18-year-old struggling to handle life in the spotlight. At the right time, he got a phone call from Jackson.

"I was starting to get flack for being an introvert and being so serious all the time about the game," Bryant says. "And he wanted to call and give me encouragement and say, 'Don't change for them. You have to stay focused. If you wanna be one of the all-time greats you have to study the all-time greats. You have to be obsessive about what you do and how you do it.'"

That apparently left a big impression on Bryant, who throughout his career has embraced his reputation as a cold-blooded competitor -- someone whose desire to win trumps his desire to get along with everybody.

Here's the trailer for the episode:

Related: Selfish? Arrogant? Ruthless? Yep, Kobe Says It's All True