Master Movements III – It’s The Footwork

Darius Soriano —  April 2, 2011

It’s been true for the majority of his career, but now more than ever Kobe Bryant is a technician on offense. As he’s aged and his first step isn’t as explosive as it was 5 years ago, Kobe’s adapted his game to include all the subtleties that you’d expect from one of the most dedicated students of the game.

When you watch Kobe play now, you’ll notice that he’s no longer simply blowing by opponents off the dribble and throwing down monster dunks. Instead of using his dribble to set up opponents where he’s crossing over a Derrick Rose or Deron Williams, he’s works almost exclusively out of the triple threat where he uses an assortment of jab steps and ball fakes to get his defender off balance before he attacks. And when he does go off the dribble, you’ll notice that he uses a lot of change of pace and direction dribbles – hesitating or going behind his back – to shake free before he flashes a perfectly executed pivot or shot fake to leave his opponent guessing which move is next. And when he’s not looking to leave a defender in his dust, he’s punishing him with his power – backing down his man like a power forward would when trying to bury a defender under the basket.

This version of Kobe is still so effective, but also so different than the one we watched even 5 years ago. But don’t take my word for it, see it for yourself in the video below (h/t to LD2K for finding this gem). And when you watch it, I hope you appreciate how good he actually is at getting that separation that every great scorer craves. His use of footwork, for any a player at any position, is probably unparalleled in the league today.

Darius Soriano

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to Master Movements III – It’s The Footwork

  1. good stuff. it could make you look so much worse than being posterized.

    also, faking the defender up and jumping into him to get a foul seems to be the only way Kobe gets a call in his favor, which is a shame considering how much he gets beaten up.


  2. What the numbers don’t tell you is that Kobe’s job is to be so fundamentally sound and unpredictable that you must have several people on the floor who are aware of where he is at all times – both on offense and defense.

    This means his teammates will have shots that are more open – and they are very good players by themselves. This means offensive players are always trying to figure out where he is so they won’t be surprised by his presence. On both sides of the ball Kobe takes up much more than his share of the attention. Leave him one-on-one and he can carry his team with scoring, so that is not really an option. To top it off he takes – and makes – so many hard shots and is totally fearless at the end of games, that you simply have to know where he is any time he is on the floor.

    This is why, on a good team, Kobe can be so thoroughly feared – regardless what the statistics say. Being a very good passer and an almost unmatched basketball strategist means his presence overrides all statistics – Hollinger and Abbott be da**ed.


  3. My personal favorite moves are at the 1:20, 1:30, 1:37, and 2:30 marks. A few up-and-under moves and that pump fake-to-reverse-pivot combo that I love so much.


  4. I don’t remember Jordan putting up moves like Kobe. And also Jordan was not a student to the game like Kobe is. If Kobe had that preferential treatment Jordan got during his prime, Kobe’s career shooting percentage would have been a couple points higher. Perhaps because Kobe was not afforded with the VIP treatment by the refs and media, that is why he develops such craftsmanship in playing this game. Kobe’s full set of skills is simply an art. Imagine Kobe is a 7-footer like Olajuwon?


  5. Yeah the pump-fake-to-reverse pivot move is awesome. The two baskets at 2:30 were amazing. The first one where he stops pivots towards the hoop, pump-fakes than reverse pivots for the shot. Then the one right after that where pump fakes pivots back away from the basket, pump fakes again then pivots back towards the basket and goes up and under the defender. Thats some good footwork. I don’t think there’s anyone else in the league that could do that without traveling.


  6. Kobe probably does use a bit more varied footwork than Jordan, but let’s not sell MJ short – he (along with Hakeem) was the best post player in the league based on his footwork. Most of Kobe’s post up-game is modeled after Jordan’s.

    I’ve been watching a lot of old playoff games recently, and where I used to think MJ and Kobe’s fadeaways were identical, I’ve noticed a glaring difference: MJ created more separation on his fade-back by taking a bigger stride on the actual turnaround (not always, but often). I’d submit that a possible reason Jordan utilized a less varied post game than Kobe is that Jordan’s fadeaway was more difficult to contest/alter than Kobe’s.

    Kobe probably is more inventive than Jordan though. I can’t remember MJ ever using an off-the-backboard pass to himself with such perfect timing.


  7. Kobe’s basically got the inner-android thing going… fingers get destroyed, shift to quadrant-feet. Digital Sun Tzu. If anyone’s completely bored, I included a pic of rock ’em sock ’em robots on an otherwise forgettable post. Did anyone ever play with those? Nothing digital about them – just crunching plastic arms. Much more Fesenko than Kobe.


  8. 4- Jordan was excellent in the post. I do think his stronger upper body (compared to Kobe) allowed him to back players down with a little more ease. I think Kobe’s footwork is a bit better than Micheal’s was. Kobe’s slimmer frame has forced him to focus on moving his feet to get guys out of position as opposed to just backing them down.

    I do agree with you on the calls Jordan got in his favor. Whenever people compare Jordan’s career shooting percentage to Kobe’s I like to point out that Jordan got to the line A LOT during his second run the Bulls. As a result more of his misses didn’t get counted against him. Also, the Bulls would basically clear out the middle for Jordan to get to the rim. Kobe spent the first half of his career largely on the perimeter because the middle belonged to Shaq.

    It is crazy to consider the only player to have truly refined footwork in the post-Hakeem NBA is Kobe.


  9. Kobe really does have some good foot work. The pump fake and going under I like cause I be doing that too….


  10. 4. Jordan not a “student of the game”? Seriously?!?

    Kobe’s footwork is a little better than Jordan’s in the sense that he has more variety, but Jordan sold his fakes better than Kobe often does and Jordan’s first-step was quicker and longer than Kobe’s. His fadeaway was superior to Kobe’s, in form and efficiency.

    Also, Jordan didn’t get calls until later in his career- when he was destroying the league by himself in the 80’s but losing in the playoffs every year, rest assured he wasn’t getting “star treatment”. He was just that ridiculously superior.


  11. @11,

    MJ is of course a student of the game, but just not as much as Kobe is. Kobe is more crafty. Of course Kobe learned some moves from MJ, but also from the likes of Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, even some of his pinch post moves shows reminiscence of Larry Bird, not to mention the obvious influence by Olajuwon.

    In the analogy of art history, Kobe is like a great artist in the classical school, where as MJ is a romanticist. MJ had re-defined the shooting guard position, a new way of dominating the game. Kobe has blended many new concepts with the skills from the classists, much like Renoir’s works in the later stage of his career.

    There will be many players in the near future wearing the tag as the next coming of Kobe.


  12. No wonder y Kobe is the most hated player, he embarrased so many of them with his moves. If I have to defend him, i would too.