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"Chewing the gum, the walking" — Nick Van Exel on how Kobe Bryant went to extremes to imitate Michael Jordan

Nick Van Exel saw with his own eyes how Kobe Bryant imitated Michael Jordan's every move on and off the court.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant

It’s no secret that Kobe Bryant patterned his game to the great Michael Jordan. His perimeter mastery, clutch shots, and footwork was reminiscent of the GOAT. According to former teammate Nick Van Exel, Kobe went to extremes to study how Jordan moved on and off the court.

Jordan tapes

Van Exel was teammates with Bryant for two years in Los Angeles. In Kobe’s rookie year, Van Exel was already in his fourth year. He quickly observed that everything that Kobe did, he seemed to pattern to Jordan. And the Black Mamba went all out in trying to imitate the Black Cat, even if it required pilfering tapes.

Everything that MJ did, Kobe did, like chewing the gum, the walking, the moves, the footwork. I used to have VHS tapes back in the day full of highlights of Michael Jordan. Kobe asked to borrow them, and I’ve never seen those tapes again,” Van Exel said, per Fox News.

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This is a story we’ve heard from people like Phil Jackson or Kobe himself. The man was an absolute basketball scholar. Apart from polishing his moves on the practice court, Kobe spent a good amount of time studying game film. The footage he studied wasn’t just his games but the games of the greats that came before him.

Kobe Bryant Detail

Bryant’s scholarly mind was displayed on his ESPN show “Detail,” where he broke down several games from the perspective of a team’s star player. It was a great lesson for professionals. But for casuals, it revealed how Bryant saw basketball as a science and an art.

In a strange turn of events, some fans invented the term “Kobe curse.” This referred to the strange sequence where the player and his respective team that Kobe analyzed would lose the next game after the episode was aired. Bryant, who didn't have a propensity for BS, took the opportunity to reiterate Detail’s mission and vision: it’s not for simple-minded people.

Like I said in the open, this show is not meant to entertain. I give you that disclaimer. This show is for athletes, man. It’s for people that want to be serious athletes, people that want to be serious basketball players. It’s for them. The majority of people will pick up on that, will understand it, will see areas that they can improve in and learn from, and athletes will as well, and others will just continue to be simple-minded,” Bryant said, per The Washington Post.

These two events show how Bryant dedicated his life to nothing but basketball. Yes, he did weird things just to be able to study Jordan up close. But it was all for the love of the game. He wasn’t just copying his moves just to be mentioned in the same sentence as him. Just like Mike, Kobe forged his own path to greatness. 

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