An investigation into sleep inspired by LeBron James

LeBron James
Chris Elise / National Basketball Association / Getty

In the Lakers’ win against the Magic on Sunday, LeBron James messed around and got a triple-double with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. He’s been cooking as of late as he continues to come back from his injury, but this game showed an especially large uptick in energy from The King. After the game, reporters wanted to know what gave him all that energy all of a sudden. LeBron said he received some “inspiration” from watching his son Bronny’s team play, while also crediting a surplus of sleep (h/t Jacob Rude of Silver Screen & Roll).

“I slept last night from 12 to 8,” James said. “I got up, ate breakfast and then went back to sleep from 8:30 to 12:30. That’s pretty good, right?”

For those who are bad at math, that’s 12 hours of sleep! I’m sure you’re sitting here wondering when, if ever, you secured 12 hours of sleep as an adult. Well, I’m right there with you (more on that later).

We’ve all heard how beneficial a good night of sleep is to your daily life. But is sleep necessary to be an elite athlete? Superstars of their sports such as LeBron and Tom Brady have realized that they not only need an average amount of sleep to dominate their sports, they need a little more than others. But there have to be some special athletes throughout the years who didn’t really get much sleep, right?

To figure this out, I’ve pored through (briefly Google’d) countless (a few) articles to compare and contrast different athletes’ sleeping patterns to find out how consistent good sleep is amongst these superstars.

Athletes that don’t get much sleep

Kobe Bryant

Rest in peace to the legend.

Although Kobe Bryant and LeBron James shared what seemed to be a positive, respectful relationship, the two did not seem to share the same sleeping pattern at the heights of their careers.

“I used to get by on three or four hours a night,” Bryant said in a 2014 interview. “I have a hard time shutting off my brain. But I’ve evolved. I’m up to six to eight hours now.”

This lines up with countless stories told about Kobe that included trainers having to meet him at five, four, sometimes even three in the morning. Although this couldn’t be more different than what LeBron does, it sure worked for Kobe as I do not need to list his accolades to anyone reading this.

Michael Jordan

I love Bryant more than I love pretty much any athlete, but he was definitely a little bit of a psychopath in his work and preparation. Moving on to another obsessive basketball legend in Michael Jordan, His Airness also reportedly did not get a lot of sleep. Below is an example of his extreme reluctance to sleep according to Baxter Holmes:

Michael Jordan was a notorious light sleeper. After Chicago’s 1989 season ended, he reportedly drove through the night to North Carolina to make a 10 a.m. tee time the next day. He then played 36 holes of golf without sleep, drove to South Carolina and played 54 holes a day for four consecutive days

Given how connected Bryant and Jordan were and how much Bryant wanted to emulate Jordan, it seems poetic that the two rarely slept during their careers.

Me, Donny McHenry

Kobe Bryant. Michael Jordan. Enough about those guys. Let’s talk about me.

It’s not easy being a GOAT (blogger that is). It involves plenty of nights with little-to-no sleep. But I’m used to it. I was forged in the fires of… being a college student. Yes, we college students figured out how to take the term “all-nighter” and transition it from a term surrounding partying and turn it into an academic term.

Hell, sometimes I’m writing a blog for Lakers Outsiders late into the evening and I only get SIX HOURS of sleep instead of eight! I’m a mad man. But animals like Kobe, Michael, and Donny just thrive when the going gets tough.

LeBron James???

“For me, I mean, at this point in the season, I don’t care about rest. I really don’t,” James said. “I don’t care about sleep.”

That doesn’t seem to be a quote from the same guy we discussed near the beginning of this article? This was a quote from LeBron after Game 4 of the 2020 NBA Finals as the Lakers were up 3-1 with a chance to close out the series in the next game.

“I’m going to continue to get the work in and continue to not sleep until the job is done. So, I look forward to the next match.”

Well… the Lakers lost that Game 5. But we all know how it ended, the Lakers won in Game 6 to become champions. Did LeBron get more sleep before that decisive game? Was that the secret to the win? Did he stray too far from his normal sleeping pattern that got him to that stage of the playoffs? Possibly…

So what have we learned? Other than the fact that I’m much more like Kobe, Michael, and LeBron than we originally thought…

Editor’s note: Donny did not finish this article because he fell asleep.

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