The author (right) with sportscaster TJ Manotoc and Duke Pryor during the UAAP games. Pryor was in Manila to attend Kobe Bryant's Lenovo presscon and the inspirational talk. Pryor also stayed behind to catch some UAAP basketball.
Kobe Bryant is positive that he can make a comeback from his season-ending Achilles tendon injury to be in the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup come the new season’s pre-season tip-off.
His longtime trainer, Tim Grover, is in charge of rebuilding the 34-year-old Bryant’s body into one that is perhaps better, by the new season.
However, while Grover, who was also Michael Jordan’s personal trainer during the Chicago Bulls’ heyday in the 1990s, handles the physical aspect, there’s another man in the background who is working on Bryant’s mindset.
Enter Charles “Duke” Pryor.
Pryor has spent the past decade working with the NBA and the US NCAA as well as celebrities and entertainers with their “life goals”.
Duke is Bryant’s “mentor”.
What Duke does is to guide and inspire players.
Pryor is in Manila to explore possibilities with the Tao Corporation, one of the Philippines’ top 100 companies, whose core business includes health and wellness, distribution and marketing, as well as resources and financial services.
Pryor joined Bryant during his recent press conference in Manila where the NBA star promoted Lenovo’s brand of smart phones and later gave an inspirational talk to a select audience. There were no tell-tale signs of Kobe’s injury as he walked without a limp.
“(He’s a) Tremendous man,” marveled Pryor who stayed on even after Bryant had left Manila to return to the United States. “Working with Kobe has been easy. He’s been a great person off the court.”
Pryor spoke of mentoring Bryant after he suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury last April 12.
“Any elite athlete who goes down and has never experienced something like that (a major injury), they are always going to get down on themselves because this is something new something; something they haven’t experienced before,” explained Pryor, who refused to divulge the names of other NBA players he has mentored before due to confidentiality agreements.
“What we do is to figure out why a player got hurt. Why you’re in this situation. How do we take you back to the same or higher level,” he added.
But Duke warned that mentoring isn’t a cake walk. “Life coaching isn’t easy because most people do not want to talk about their lives to friends or family because they do not want to get judged. That is why sometimes they talk to other people.”
The methodology sounds simple, but Duke assures it is not: “We initially sit down and talk get to know each other. You have to gain their trust and when you do, then you go back to the root of what caused these things. Roots are real deep. You have get to the root of the problem and to be honest with yourself.”
“And Kobe is a marvelous client,” summed up Pryor. “He’ll be ready and as good as ever when the new NBA season tips off.”
When Pryor isn’t mentoring athletes or celebrities, he goes home to Indiana where he spends time with his family and coaches in a youth basketball league.