The former NBA star said "commitment and [the] competitiveness of 'We're going to succeed' " are his secrets to a strong relationship

By Benjamin VanHoose
January 09, 2020 02:39 PM

For Kobe Bryant, dedication extends beyond the basketball court and into his married life.

On a new episode of Showtime Basketball’s All the Smoke, the five-time NBA champ, 41, opened up about the secret to his lasting marriage to wife Vanessa, 37, who he wed in 2001. His key? “Commitment and [the] competitiveness of ‘We’re going to succeed.’ ”

“We’ve seen couples that have been like 85 years old and you look and you’re like, ‘Oh man, such an old, sweet couple,’ and I’d go talk to them because I wanna know … ,” Bryant said. “One time a guy goes, ‘Yeah it’s great, but she just kicked me out of the bed last night, I was sleeping on the couch last two nights.’ ”

Bryant laughed, “And I’m like, ‘It doesn’t change.’ ”

The former basketball star — and recent Oscar winner — said the ups and downs of a relationship will never subside, yet that solidarity of working through the rough patches together is one of the best parts of a strong relationship.

“That’s all the beauty of it: having the persistence and determination to work through things — very, very tough things — and we’ve been able to do that,” he said.

Diddy birthday couples
Vanessa and Kobe Bryant
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty

In June, the couple welcomed daughter Capri Kobe Bryant. The new dad of four shared the news on Instagram at the time.

“We are beyond excited that our baby girl ‘Koko’ has arrived!! #bryantbunch #4princesses #blessed,” Bryant captioned an image sharing his newborn’s name and birth date.

Capri joined the couple’s three older daughters: Bianka Bella, 3, Gianna Maria-Onore, 13, and Natalia Diamante, 16.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories

Speaking with Extrain 2017, the retired athlete admitted that his wife was hoping to have a boy one day. “I hear boys are just walking tornadoes. We’ll see. I think Vanessa wants a boy more than I do,” he joked.

He added that while his teammates tease him for being outnumbered in his own home, he loves having daughters: “My friends say, ‘It takes a real man to make a boy.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, it takes a king to make a princess … get in line!’ “

On The Ellen DeGeneres Show in April, Bryant said he was “super excited” to welcome baby No. 4. “I love my princesses,” he said. “Vanessa was kind of putting the pressure on me to have a boy. She said, ‘You can do it, you can do it!’ And then ‘Nah, you can’t.’ “

This might not be the final Bryant child. When host Ellen DeGeneres asked the athlete how many kids he would ideally have, he replied with a grin, “I would go for a solid starting five, you just have your own internal basketball team!”