If you haven’t listened to it already, I cannot recommend enough the recent Lowe Post podcast where Grantland’s Zach Lowe had Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck as a guest. The entire podcast focused on Beck’s time as a Lakers’ beat reporter when he worked for the LA Daily News from 1997 through 2004. Beck left the LADN for the NY Times in the summer of ’04, of course, but he recalls his time covering the Lakers fondly and brings great perspective as well as some untold stories that are, for Lakers’ fans especially, essential listening.
I use that podcast as an intro here because one of the many topics covered during their hour-long discussion was Kobe’s reputation as a “gunner”. Lowe and Beck go into great detail about how, while it’s an idea that Kobe now himself propagates, it’s also one which doesn’t do him many favors since it often deflects the proper credit he should receive for an all-around player and, especially, how great a passer he’s been throughout his career.
This is a topic which I don’t think gets enough run in many conversations about Kobe, but it’s something I do feel is important when discussing him as a player. Throughout the majority of his career Kobe has played, positionally, shooting guard but has spent most of his time on the floor as a player who either initiates the offense a la a point guard or has the offense run through him as the primary decision maker. Playing this style has allowed Kobe to flex his scoring muscles — after all, with him handling the ball so much there was little in the way of stopping him from simply shooting — but has also put him in position to show just how gifted a passer he is.
Reflecting on this took me to youtube and, lo and behold, I found this wonderful compilation of Kobe passing clips — all of which come from last season: