3 parts of the NBA game that Kobe Bryant did not take from Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant

It was such an honor to cover much of the late, great Kobe Bryant’s career and also dispel some inaccuracies regarding the icon. One of the inaccuracies I had to discover myself was if Bryant was a bad dude. Because of the narrative that said Bryant was a selfish superstar only focused on his stats and the emulation of Michael Jordan, I had to speak to the man himself simply to confirm either way.


What I found over the years is that Kobe Bryant had a great relationship with the press in particular, and it wasn’t just me or Anthony Gilbert — because we’re from Philly — that Bryant is chill with media wise across the land.

Speaking of Gilbert, there is no other writer alive versed more than him, so if seeking info on Kobe Bryant, he’s your man.

Kobe Bryant respect

Of course, with his death in January 2020, many have softened how they spoke of Bryant when he was alive, and much respect goes out for that. Those types of shifts are what I personally love to see in the media.

I spoke to Hall of Fame forward Spencer Haywood about Bryant’s demeanor, and he gave me this: “Kobe Bryant is probably the most straight-up gentleman — along with Kevin Garnett — in the game today. He is a gentleman of the game. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I’ve met some (expletive) that fans think are really cool. Kobe greets me like a man and an equal when he sees me, and I have nothing but respect for him for that. They’ll learn one of these days that he’s the man.”

This is something media members at large do not say about Michael Jordan. No problem, because they are two different people. What are the differences? The aforementioned Anthony Gilbert gave me a distinct similarity today by text:

The mental toughness. That’s the biggest difference between those two and the rest. They could jump into the moment and rise to any occasion. Nothing rattled Kobe Bryant. He and the game were one.

We all know the similarities: the pull-up, the glare, the walk, the talk, the darkside and accessing the basketball god they both had within; the stop-at-nothing, I’m going to destroy you know matter who you are mental state they encompassed. The love of career decoration. That love has no materialistic meaning in how shiny their trophies were, but more about giving historical permanence to their names.

Different, yet similar focus on playing defense

Michael Jordan was about tendencies — especially when guarding the superstars of his era.

From Basketball Network: “When I’m playing against scorers, players like Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler, and Joe Dumars, I’m envisioning their tendencies before the game. Should I attack him offensively early so that he’s on the defensive for the rest of the game? There are different ways I have to approach players like that because I have to stop them as well as score on them.

« Sometimes, doing one can impact the other.”

This is the stuff fans of the game seek: the hows and the whys, the preparation before the preparation. Combine freakish athleticism, pretentious-by-design will, and unique preparation, and that is Jordan. That he and Bryant were so great defensively, while being the biggest killers offensively, gives the game the blueprint to teach younger generations there is more than hitting shots from the logo.

If two of the greatest players ever see the importance of focusing on defense just as much as offense, why shouldn’t this era? I see no other players to model games after than Jordan and Bryant. Otherwise, all kids need, to give love back to the game, is to get in the gym and put up shots like their last name is Curry.

Back to « Beans » (yes, we call him « Beans » in Philly. Why? There is No. 8 and then there is No. 24. That’s two in one, hence, Beans).

Bryant was a perpetual learner. Jordan was more solitary in his approach; Kobe got it from anywhere and everywhere.

Bryant, who entered the NBA out of high school, didn’t have Dean Smith, the legendary University of North Carolina coach who guided Jordan, for a few years on campus and later on in life, remember?

If Bryant needed advice, he did get it from the best in the game. In this instance, Bryant was having issues defensively, so he hit up nine-time All-Defensive team member and 1995-96 Defensive Player of the Year, Gary Payton.

From Kobe’s book, « Mamba Mentality: How I Play: » « It was 2000, and I was having problems getting over screens when guarding the ball. When the All-Star Game came around, and Gary Payton and I were warming up together, I pulled him aside. ‘Gary,’ I said, ‘I’m having trouble getting through screens. What do I do?’

« He was a great competitor, but he took the time to walk me through his approach. He told me I had to make myself thin, and, I’ll never forget this, move my puppies. He explained I had to slide, not run, through the screen, and to do so I had to make myself as small as I could and move my feet as quickly as possible. Almost, he explained, like a sheet of paper going through a door.

« After the All-Star break, I worked on it constantly in practice. I just kept plugging away. Not coincidentally, that was the first year I made First Team All-Defensive. »

The 12-time All-NBA defender knew that to become the greatest there ever was, he had to add things here and there to his game that would continue his legendary NBA journey. Here’s what he once said honestly about the « Easy Money Sniper, » Kevin Durant:

“Right then, he started developing, so I developed it and now he can pull up left, he can pull upright, he can shoot the long ball, he has runners, left hand, right hand. Before he had a left-hand finish at the rim, I could always send him left, forcing him all the way to the basket, even with the advantages of besides, he was still uncomfortable finishing with his left, so I could clamp the right hand, and now forced him into a tough situation. But now he’s developed that, so I retired not being able to figure him out.”

I kid, yet Michael Jordan would never admit that.

Now, to some subtle and not so subtle differences …

No. 3: Kobe mimicked Spencer Haywood’s turnaround jumper

It looks like Jordan’s, and it feels like Jordan’s yet Bryant’s turnaround jumper was modeled after Spencer Haywood’s, and not Jordan’s as what is popularly stated.

One of the prettiest shots in the game has been passed through time and perfected by the current generation. Bryant has told me on occasion he got it from old tape of the man we all call « Wood. » The transference of history in this declaration is that Haywood got the weapon from Wilt Chamberlain, so the emulation felt so spiritually real for Bryant that he got it indirectly from Philly anyway.

No. 2: Julius Erving’s first step

It had to be intimidating to have Bryant stare you down at the top of the key with the rock in his hands with eyes of fire. What happened next had to be a blur to most guarding the Hall of Fame shooting guard who averaged an even 25 points in 1,346 NBA games.

That first step became the reason for many of his 33,643 career points, and, of course, Bryant, being such a student of the game, looked outward to finish the jab step.

In a piece I wrote for SLAM: From « Dr. J to Kobe Bryant: The Evolution of the Slasher Past and Present, » Bryant spoke of emulating Julius Erving’s first step: “I studied him a lot. He had a long first step. He had a lot of moves when he got around the basket. He knew how to use his body to create contact and still be able to get the shot off.

« As a kid you don’t know what you are doing, but you just try to mimic what he’s doing.”

In the piece linked, I came up with a lineage named the 5th Evolutions: Elgin Baylor, Connie Hawkins, Julius Erving, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. It essentially was a trip through time showing how the game is affected by the charisma and talent of the NBA’s brightest showmen who helped push the game forward with their sui generis abilities.

No. 1: Earl the Pearl Monroe’s spin move

The spin move has transcended the NBA. Earl Monroe, the man they call « Black Jesus, » perfected the move that allows an offensive player to elude a defender as if traveling right through the defender. It’s a stop and pivot, and when used around the basket, it can lead to the slickest buckets.

One day back in time, Monroe was here to take in a 76ers-LA Lakers game, and when Kobe Bryant told me he hadn’t met the Philly born Hall of Famer — who learned the game from Winston-Salem State’s Clarence « Big House » Gaines — a meeting of the two charismatic stars took place through legendary media member David Aldridge.

Longtime NBA head and assistant coach Jimmy Lynam, who still does analysis of 76ers basketball, spoke to me about the spin move that night mentioning Monroe from their days in Philly high school:

« Earl went to Bartram High School in Southwest Philly, and I went to West Catholic, but I was right on the fringe. I would have gone to Bartram if I went to public school. I felt like I knew him even though back then I didn’t know him. One summer … I don’t know how to say this … he was a freelance, schoolyard type of player. He went to a small school down in Winston-Salem.

« He came back one summer, and he had a move I’d never seen before. They called it the “Pearl Move.” No one ever spun like that with a basketball, and you can take that to the bank. Guys all say they … no, you didn’t, dude. I don’t know where he got it or how he got it, but he invented the move they all do today. »

The spin move was such a weapon that it became legendary Detriot Lions running back Barry Sander’s 15,269-yard calling card. The NBA and NFL continue to benefit, and so does every gamer using spin moves to score on friends and foes virtually.

Bryant’s reply to me later, as my jaw dropped from all this history: « I stole it when I was 13 years old. I was watching an NBA Entertainment video talking about Earl the Pearl’s spin move, and I just told him I jacked so many of his moves, including his pump fake and pull-up jump shot. »

Ah, Kobe Bryant and that magnificent pull-up was Pearl’s, too?

See, I just realized while writing this about the pull-up jumper. Kobe Bryant was something truly special if I’m still learning from him. It’s never been just about Jordan, and that’s no diss to Jordan, but more about opening up the narrative to include more hoopers who all had a hand in creating Kobe Bryant.

Thank you, sirs.

Via sportskeeda


Related Posts

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *