Kobe Bryant's infamous well-documented story about air balling two-straight perimeter shots revealed that he wasn't an efficient shooter at all at a young age. The world may have witnessed how Bryant developed his craft, but only his teammates and the people around him can attest to how he approached his flaws in the most specific detail.
Robert Horry saw it up close.
When Bryant was in the early stage of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, he was a bench player for a reason. His game was barely complete as his unreliable jump shot and inexperience were what prevented him from seeing early minutes. According to Kobe's former teammate Robert Horry, even his teammates made fun of young Bryant for not being able to shoot at a high level.
"... I'm a tell a little funny story… You remember the game, the string game we used to play, right? And then Kobe couldn't shoot threes back then, so he would always get beat. And we'd get to practice, and he'd be like, 'Yo guys, can we play?'" Horry nostalgically shared with Byron Scott on The Byron Scott podcast.
"And we'd be like, 'Nah, we ain't playing today'. And he would get mad because he wanted revenge. Then we would wait 2-3 days, then we play, then he gets beat again. Then he'd go right back in the lab, tryna get better. And like it was just one of those things. We used to mess with him so much about things he couldn't do. And that dude would be in the gym next morning, 5 AM, 6 AM, trying to prove us wrong... And that's what made him great, man," Horry added.
How Bryant's shooting improved
As expected, Bryant's perimeter game significantly improved over time, and it's not a shocker to know that it was a result of 5 AM workouts. According to the ever-reliable Basketball Reference, Kobe's jumper ascended in the 2002-2003 regular season, when his 3-point shooting skyrocketed to 38.3% on 3.3 attempts per game.
The 5-time champion always credits his mentors, Michael Jordan and Jerry West; Kobe admitted he copied most of his moves from them. Aside from hard work, one way Kobe developed his jumper was to focus on the little details like footwork and taking a mental note of how to attack the different defensive coverages he often saw. This is also what he worked tirelessly on during the summer.
Instead of relying too much on attacking the rim, one of the earliest developments in Bryant's game was forming a complete jumper, which turned him into one of the most complete and greatest basketball players of all time.