Master Movements – Part II

Darius Soriano —  August 30, 2010

Jan. 22, 2010 - New York, China - (100123) -- NEW YORK, Jan. 23, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Kobe Bryant (R) of Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball during the NBA basketball game against New York Knicks in New York, the United States, Jan. 22, 2010. Lakers won 115-105.. (Xinhua/Shen Hong.

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.

In our previous posts, we’ve discussed how Kobe’s use of fundamentals help shape his game and greatly contribute to his offensive success.  We’ve shown how footwork plays a major role in his ability to create space and shots.  And we’ve also shown how Kobe creates scoring opportunities by building one move off of another and basing it all off his ability to shoot his jumper from the outside.  In our latest installment, we show the next progression of creating shots by combining the threat of his jumper, tremendous footwork, and innovation.

I think we can all agree that Kobe is one of the most tactical basketball players around.  We’ve all heard the story of Kobe picking up Tim Duncan’s bank shot while practicing during with the Spurs’ big man during the 2004 All-Star weekend or how he spent last summer with Hakeem learning some of the Dream’s epic post moves.  So, thinking and playing in a tactical manner is nothing new for #24 as he’s always looking to add to his game and if you’re going to steal you do it from the best.  However, one aspect of Kobe’s game that has helped him reach the pinnacle of the sport is his innovation; his ability to think outside of the box and dream up moves that he can turn into real life actions on the court.

And I don’t think any move that we’ve seen Kobe make exemplifies this more than his pump-fake/reverse pivot move that he’s adopted in recent years.  In the video below, Kobe walks us through this move and shows us all exactly how to execute it.

There are two points that I take from Kobe’s explanation in the above clip.  First is how he’s able to find ways to counteract even the best defenders’ adjustments.  Kobe speaks about how some defenders have found ways to contest shots by not leaving their feet and instead body him in order to stop him from stepping through the defender in a typical manner.  However as Kobe shows in the clip, he’s now found a way to still get by that defender (without a dribble, mind you) by pivoting away from the defender and still creating space.  The second thing that sticks out to me is that Kobe’s always (at least partially) focusing on the second defender.  We’ve mentioned this before, but you don’t become an elite scorer in the NBA if you aren’t able to beat the second level of the defense.  Whether it’s a perimeter player like Kobe or a post player like Gasol, beating the second defender is crucial to offensive success and Kobe shows us again that this is never really off his mind.

What’s most impressive about this move, though, is how Kobe is able to find counters almost instantly and escape what could be considered a vulnerable offensive position and turn it into a viable scoring chance.  You can’t really tell in the clip because Kobe’s going about half speed and the entire clip is set up in a way where the movement is accentuated to make a point, but when you see this move live it’s quite impressive because the entire thing happens in a matter of seconds.  In the clip below, you see how Kobe was able to execute this move against the Knicks on the night that he went for 61 in Madison Square Garden.

And in the clip below, you can see that even against a bigger defender (Kenyon Martin, in this case) Kobe is able to create enough space to generate a good look at the hoop while concentrating through the slight body bump that Martin delivers when he tries to contest the shot.

Again, this move is great because it builds on the rest of Kobe’s arsenal.  Every defender knows that even at his advanced age that Kobe has a good enough first step to drive.  Defenders also know that Kobe is one of the best jump shooters in the league – especially off the dribble.  So Kobe now has established that he can drive effectively and shoot in both spot up and off the dribble situations, essentially leaving the defense in a very difficult position.  However, even when bottled up, Kobe has developed enough counters to escape and create good looks for himself or his teammates.

Darius Soriano

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20 responses to Master Movements – Part II

  1. loving these analyses darius; how many do you plan to do because I would hate to see them stop (and if there’s any player you could seemingly analyse forever, it’s Kobe).

  2. Team USA could sure have used Kobe’s pivot & spin move today. Also, we could have used Kobe’s lockdown on Barbosa as well.

    I’m going to try that move this week. Hopefully my ankles won’t explode and/or blow out my knees!

  3. These clips, (and the previous Nike ones) help me to understand how Kobe is thinking during an offensive possession. I understand much better how Kobe is thinking during the possession, and how the way the defense reacts to the threats he presents, result in either good shots for Kobe, or open shots for his teammates. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Is kobe the only player who uses this move? ive only seen kobe use it so far. anyone know any other players who have used this move?

  5. I tried to look these videos up on U-Tube and couldn’t find the ones with Kobe doing narration. I would think it would be kind of great to summarize all these videos in one thread so that we could all favorite that thread for future reference.

  6. Love it! Kobe is the only athlete who uses the pump fake pivot. Anyone else would jump into the flying defender for the automatic whistle. Not our boy Kobe, he spins using his left pivot foot for the open jay or inside pass to his teammate. I hate to admit this but it was strange hearing me say that Kobe would actually avoid the automatic whistle.

    Thanks Darius for another great article. I like the video clips too man!

  7. I’ve tried to do that pivot and spin move in an empty gym just shooting around before. I just trip over myself.

    By far my favorite thing about Kobe has always been his footwork. It is a beautiful thing to behold. We, as Laker fans, need to remember how lucky we are to get to watch Kobe and Pau on the same team. If you love basketball, there aren’t two better guys to watch do all of the little things right.

  8. This is why Kobe will be a pretty elite player even when he’s in the mid-30s. Wade, LBJ, unless these guys work on aspects of their games besides athleticism, will have a shorter shelf life once they hit their 30s.

    Kobe’s far from finishing.

  9. in the first video, in second 40, Kobe actually traveled.

    Just saying….

  10. #7 I’ve been working on the sequence of moves that Kobe runs through from the triple-threat at the 3pt line. Jab-step shoot outside. Jab then drive to the hoop. Jab and drive to a mid-range shot. Jab, drive to the mid-range then pump-fake and step through. I’m not making any of it look pretty like Kobe does, and I’m guessing I’m hitting those shots at a lower percentage in an empty gym then Kobe does in the game. That last move with the spin… trying to stay balanced enough after stopping on the inner foot, pump-fake and then spinning the other way- completely discoordinates my body… hence the shot is wild… and I make it ugly on top of everything else.

  11. P.Ami, anyone who tried any sort of spin move probably knows how embarassing it could get when you launch a shot right out of it.

    I personally had the ball travel way away from the backboard that I vowed never to try it in any game 😉

    Anyway, among the other things he does, this seems like the simplest move of all, and easily replicated (although not at my level of skill and patience). Kinda wondering why it isn’t used by many others.

  12. The main thing that I’m taking away from these videos is that for all the talk about Kobe losing his athleticism, those moves take a lot of lower body strength and control.

  13. Zephid,
    Strength and control can be maintained for quite a long time, but it is the muscle twitch/burst that goes with youth. Kobe has been working on increasing his strength for at least the last 10 years and his fundamental habits for much longer. He has actually been preparing himself for the time that his high-fly act would become a bit more grounded.

  14. Good point Zephid. I think what makes it special is the quickness with which he executes the spin. As Darius pointed out, many defenders have responded to his techniques by not leaving their feet when aggressively defending him, so that even when they go for a block, they can still recover relatively fast. The speed with which he pivots and repositions himself is what makes the move effective. There are very few people who can execute a spin-set-shot as fast as he does. I can’t think of any in the game right now. In fact, I can’t even think of anyone who is even close to as skilled as Kobe on offense, so that they can even begin to attempt these moves with any regularity. D. Wade?

  15. All the instances I have seen are of Kobe using his left foot as the pivot. As hard as this is, try using the right foot – at least for me it’s a lot harder!

  16. Kobe’s Footwork fan August 31, 2010 at 7:20 am

    actually, kobe has done the reverse pivot on both feet. search in youtube “Kobe Bryant – Purity” then you’ll see him do it against OKC and the Jazz. i’m a big fan of kobe’s footwork and whenever i play i try to emulate his footwork haha. though i’m not really the primary scorer of my team when we play, it’s fun and “educational” to emulate kobe’s fakes, pivot and fadeaway or hakeem’s dream shake. 🙂

  17. Yeah, I can’t say that I have ever seen another player do that move. The footwork involved is pretty amazing and very few players (if any other than probably Duncan) have the footwork that Kobe does. Its quite an amazing move when you see it in a game.

  18. actually i believe when it comes to offensive creativity kobe is alone at the top. he has perfected all the moves that players before have made and incorporated them into his game. IMHO he has a counter for a defensive move a defensive player will throw at him. Additionally, whats astounding is the fact that kobe will use incredibly tough and dangerous moves in pressure situations during which i do not belive you will find a player willing to use such a moves. The off the glass to himself against the rockets in 2009 playoffs immediatly comes to mind

  19. first of all, this is a very very mediocre analysis.. there’s nothing new information.

    yes, kobe’s footwork is one of his strengths. This pump fake and reverse pivoting move that Kobe does can’t be called Kobe’s money shot for he did it only once or twice in the entire season.
    And if you watch carefully, in his tutorial video he says, he reverse pivot when the defender basically doesn’t bid on pump fake and sticks to him denying step-through move. Then against Knicks and Martin, he does this move when both people have jumped over and basically let the door open for a step-through move…
    i’m just saying..

  20. @5 Just go to and you will find the Players Moves. Click on Kobe and all of his moves are there.