Albert Pujols has bonded with Kobe Bryant over shared work ethic
In the upcoming months, Kobe Bryant will probably find ways to make Albert Pujols feel at home.
Not that Pujols needs it. His 10-year contract with the Angels worth up to $250 million will instantly bolster their lineup and spark fan interest. But Pujols needs to look no further than the Black Mamba himself for advice on meshing with the SoCal culture.
The two sparked a friendship ever since they met March 2010 before a Lakers' regular-season game in Miami. Pujols, who prides himself on intense preparation, marveled at Bryant arriving at American Airlines Arena three hours before tipoff to work on his shooting, a routine Bryant found necessary because his fractured right index finger had affected his shooting stroke. Bryant, in turn, admired the preparation that has helped Pujols become one of Major League Baseball's best all-time hitters.
It remains unclear how much they have kept in touch considering that Pujols revealed during the 2010 MLB All-Star game that Bryant hadn't returned two phone calls he left during the NBA playoffs. But they have enough tangible connections that it wouldn't be surprising if Bryant helped Pujols secure Lakers' courtside seats as soon as the Christmas Day game against Chicago.
Pujols took a picture of his son A.J. with Bryant and Miami guard Dwyane Wade that he kept as his cellphone wallpaper. The slugger would surely extend the same courtesy in posing for pictures with Bryant's daughters, Natalia and Gianna. Bryant, a Newport Beach resident, surely could help Pujols find a comfortable estate nearby Angel Stadium. And even though Pujols already prepares well on his own, Bryant could extend advice on how to maximize the twilight years of his career and handle the scrutiny along with it.
As accomplished as Pujols' baseball career has been, it remains to be seen whether he'll ever come close to matching the one Bryant has had here in L.A. But it's certain that Pujols will have Bryant's support.
— Mark Medina
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Photo: Slugger Albert Pujols. Credit: Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press