Master Movements

Darius Soriano —  August 21, 2010

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (L) drives to the basket on Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen in the first quarter during Game 4 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Boston, Massachusetts June 10, 2010. REUTERS/Adam Hunger (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In this post, we continue our look at Kobe Bryant and how his commitment to fundamentals has helped make him the player that he is today.

As we’ve stated in previous posts, it’s easy to appreciate Kobe Bryant.  He typically makes at least one jaw dropping play a game that gets Lakers fans and opponents fans alike out of there seats and in awe of what he just did.  I’ve argued before that Kobe is one of the most fundamentally sound players in the game and that his footwork is the foundation for his ability to play the game at the level that he does.  And when you combine his footwork with his ridiculous ability to hit tough shots, you get one of the all time great offensive players that can seemingly do anything he wants on the offensive side of the ball.  And while this ability to hit tough shots can sometimes lead to thoughts of wildness and outside of the box play, I’m a firm believer that Kobe’s game is rooted in fundamental basketball (with a flare for pushing the envelope) and that it’s all the little things – the minute details – that drive Kobe’s game and make him the all around threat that he is.

So today, I share with you a few videos on Kobe’s attention to detail when dealing with everyday offensive situations.  We start with getting open on the wing and executing a catch and shoot jumper.

The threat of Kobe’s jumper is probably his greatest strength as an offensive player.  With nearly unlimited range on his jump shot, a potential made basket is only a flick of the wrist away and Kobe uses that to his advantage when defenders are force to play him on an island.  Notice how Kobe speaks of getting into the triple threat position and then using his jab step as a way of feeling out the defender before he makes his move.  This is why we often see Kobe hold the ball a bit more than we’d all like, but it’s all for a purpose – he’s evaluating all levels of the defense and then deciding what his next move should be.

Next, we see how Kobe uses the threat of his jumper to his advantage by then using his first step to drive by an opponent to get to the basket.

Kobe may not have the lightning first step that he had during his younger days, but that does not mean that’s he no longer a threat to drive to the basket.  At this point in his career, rather than just catching the ball and attempting to drive right by a defender, Kobe often uses his array of jab steps, ball fakes, and hesitation dribbles to get to the rim.  Notice how in the video Kobe speaks about disregarding the primary defender almost immediately.  Understand that when the offensive player is a key focus of a defense’s scheme (as Kobe is), it’s often the secondary (help) defender that can cause the most problems on any given play.  The awareness that Kobe shows when saying that he’s reading the second defender and using that players’ positioning to decide on what side of the basket he should attempt to finish his shot is also something that should be noted.  Kobe literally has multiple decisions to make in the matter of fractions of a second in order for a play to be successful or not.  The fact that he so often chooses right is what makes him special.

Finally, we see what is probably Kobe’s most feared weapon: his pull up jumper.

Executing a pull up jumper at the proficiency that Kobe does is what makes him such a fantastic offensive player.  As the video shows, Kobe is taking into account every little detail when evaluating what he should do on any given play.  He’s reading the body of the primary defender, he’s then moving his eyes to the help defender, he’s looking at his teammates to see if someone flashes open…really he’s just examining the entire floor and looking for an option that will deliver a made basket.  There are few players that can shoot this shot the way that Kobe can.  He’s very strong going either left or right.  He’s just as good using one dribble to get to his spot as he is using multiple dribbles.  He can easily find his rhythm, set his feet, and establish the necessary balance to execute this shot at any given time.  As he relays in the clip, this is the shot that truly makes him a versatile offensive player and the shot that most puts defenders in a position where they’re guessing what’s going to come next.

As we’ve been saying for our entire series of posts, Kobe is truly a fantastic offensive player.  He’s a force with the ball and his variety of moves once he makes a catch is unmatched amongst perimeter players in the league.  Sure, other players may be better shooters or better drivers or even better finishers once they get into the paint.  But no player (although Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant are very close), show the variety of offensive moves and the complete offensive games that Kobe does when working from the wing.  Enjoy watching this guy, folks as it’s pretty rare to see this type of talent with this attention to detail execute the fundamentals of perimeter basketball.  We truly are lucky to watch #24 night in and night out.

Darius Soriano

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  1. Nice post!

    The only sentence I disagree with comes near the end. Neither Kevin Durant nor Anthony are very close. They might be the 2nd and 3rd most gifted offensive players in the league, but Bryant is in a league of his own when it comes to (especially difficult, impossible) shot making, footwork, combination of post game, outside game, penetration, various jumpshots, etc. In fact I think that one would have to take a trip down memory lane to find another player as gifted on the offensive end as the one we’ve had the privilege of seeing for the past 14 seasons.



  2. One thing to keep in mind when watching Kobe next year – his right hand may still be a little weaker than his left, due to the damage to both the shooting finger and the little finger.

    What this means is that when Kobe is on the right side of the court and has made his read of his man, he turns his attention to other offensive or defensive players.

    It is at this time, when he is dribbling with his right hand, that he is most susceptible to having the ball stolen or ‘ticked’ by the defender. He has just a bit less control than he used to and he has just a bit less strength in his fingers.

    We may see more turnovers at this point on the court, but don’t be too tough on Kobe if we see this.


  3. Darius – this is why I visit this site daily. The posts are fantastic and we are still many weeks away from the start of training camp. I can’t thank you and the other contributors enough for the fantastic job. And yes, we are incredibly lucky to marvel at all the great things Kobe does. There will be other great Lakers after Kobe, but none quite like him. Here’s to another great season and hopefully more memories and rings to come for out Lakers.


  4. Great post! Also really helps explain why the longer armed defenders give Kobe so much more trouble. They can back off that extra step but can still contest his jumper.


  5. Every time I see a post like this my respect for Kobe grows a little bit. He’s incredibly talented and gifted, yes, but he’s a thinking talent, who works hard to ensure that he does everything possible to make the most out of his talent. He doesn’t just work with what he has, he optimizes.

    The man’s a true basketball geek, and I mean that in the most flattering sense of the word. 🙂

    I’m glad I stuck around for this off-season… keep the good posts coming!


  6. While it may have a tad to much “Terminator” feel to it, with all the scanning of people, I always thought this commercial grasped the essence of Kobe’s game pretty well.

    Combine this analytical mind with the work ethic to perfect the moves, and the mental and phyical skills to perform them even under duress, you’ve got what makes him special.

    And apropos analytical mind, this video also is quite revealing in that regard:


  7. Whether its a basketball player or a cabinet maker, its fun to see someone so good at their profession.

    I am curious to see how Kobe will compare to MJ once age really becomes a factor. I think what will ultimately make Kobe go down as a better all time player then MJ is that he will defy age to a greater extent then MJ did and will be in the league longer and a more overall effective player. While at their best, Mj might have been a better overall player, but once its time to look at their overall career, I think Kobe is going to pass him.

    As much fun as it has been to watch Kobe grow and mature, what I will appreciate is how he handles and produces during the inevitable decline like very few were able to do.


  8. Awesome post and nice insight into how Kobe’s so fundamentally sound. For those of us who also play the game it’s even more impressive.

    My only issue with it is why is Kobe sharing his trade secrets…that’s like handing the enemy our war plans. I guess he’s just confident there’s really no “Kobe-stopper”.



  9. Great post, Kobe is rare kind of player that comes to play once in every decade or two. What makes kobe great is that he does not stop on adding weapons to his already complete arsenal. Every year he would perfect an additional move weather it is his shooting, footwork or his post-up plays. He never just stops learning. If I may be allowed to compare him, he is like Manny Pacquiao of boxing. They are already good athletes at the start of their career but they were never contented on what they have and coninued to find ways to improve their skills and reach their status right now. Last year Kobe went to camp with Hakeem Olajuwon. To perfect his post-up moves, I am now wondering what would Kobe add to his arsenal this training camp. I cant wait for the season to start.


  10. Yes, @7, I was a bit concerned about Kobe’s sharing of information. But, then I thought about Kobe and how he operates and I’m sure that he has a counter for all of the information that he has dispensed.

    This summer has been fantastic on the Forum Blue and Gold. Thank you to all of the contributors.


  11. @8, 10.

    You still have to make the correct decision and make the proper pass, dribble or shot. There will never be a video on how to do that – that’s basketball IQ. We see these videos in real time during every game.

    There are no secrets to Kobe’s moves, just like there are no solutions for Kobe’s moves!


  12. Kobe can share everything and anything he knows and learns because it’s one thing to share, and quite another to be able to stop them.

    Also, more information isn’t necessarily always advantageous to the defender. I mean, if Kobe only had like 2~3 moves that he routinely uses, yeah, sharing the secret of these moves will really hamper him.

    But if he has like 20 ~ 30 moves? Who cares if you know 15, or even all 30 of them. It doesn’t really help you defend him because you can’t prepare for all those moves at the same time.


  13. And apropos analytical mind, this video also is quite revealing in that regard:

    As I was saying, the man is a true basketball geek. 🙂

    That’s what makes him great, that’s what makes him unstoppable, and one of the greatest ever… that he takes the game as an intellectual challenge as much as it is a physical one, and that he has such a deep understanding of the mechanics of basketball, of the psychology behind it, and of the mentality of other player, that he can do whatever it is he wants to do on the court, regardless of what anyone else tries to limit him to.

    His comment on Elgin Baylor says everything we need to know, “it’s cool to be able to do all those fancy things, but how did he get there?”

    Aside from being talented, Kobe may be one of the most intelligent basketball players ever. Let’s not neglect that part…let’s appreciate it. He has won us a few rings after all… give the man his due.


  14. George Best,
    The thing to remember about Kobe is that he has been in the league as many years as MJ before this season even starts.

    Also, like Dr. J, Michael was blessed with those enormous hands that could simply surround a basketball. While Kobe’s hands are bigger than the average person, they are just average for a basketball player.

    Kobe has truly made the most of the talent he has – then taken himself beyond that point. That is where he may become the GOAT.


  15. In addition to this nice analysis,there is one thing that is not mentioned often about Kobe:
    His awesome glass/bank shot precision.He seems like a computer shooting from glass on lots of angles.I believe Timmy Duncan and Kobe are perfect at this.
    Not to mention his uncanny body control in the air and shot release mechanics.
    Kobe and MJ are definition of basketball,not just players.


  16. The lonely thing I don’t like of Kobe’s game is he hold up the ball too much. Not saying he doesn’t have to have the ball but saying he’s smart enough to evaluate the situation before the ball gets to his hands and so act properly.

    When you have to analize whats the defense doing having the ball in your hands, the D can recolocate to defend you.

    Kobe is deadlier while recieving and driving (or fake and go or whatever, not just standing threating) than by taking 2-3 segonds in triple thread


  17. Advance Happy Birthday, Kobe!


  18. Several years ago Kobe badly sprained an ankle, but chose to stay in a game . . . a playoff game, as I recall.

    Kobe couldn’t jump, cut, or drive very effectively, though he could do just a bit of each. But using sound fundamentals alone, he was still able to score on pump fakes, quasi-set shots, proficiency at shooting with both hands, and step-through layups.

    He certainly wasn’t dominating, but was still effective, for all that he was virtually immobile.

    Yup, I do agree that “old” Kobe will probably be better than “old” Michael.


  19. One of the reasons I love this website is the fact that it talks about basketball technique and strategy. I prefer it over (which is more for the casual fan). I’m more of a sports junkie and love the strategy and nuances part of the sport. In the videos above, you can see Bryant’s incredible footwork. He emphasizes his body angle and what he’s trying to do when he’s in a certain situation. As he gets older and his athleticism wanes, his basketball skills and tremendous footwork should be able let him still be a great, if not dominant, player in the game for a few more years to come.