Creativity-wise, the game of basketball has reached its peak. Every move in the book has been done, and what we’re witnessing today are variations of the fundamentals, with more flashiness and cool factor to them. But it’s all more or less the same.
That’s why the devil is in the detail, and trying to come up with something new isn’t the way to single yourself out from the pack of the same. Perfecting what’s already been done is, and the way to do it is by studying guys who did it before and mimicking what worked for them. Or in other words, stealing is the name of the game.
The NBA’s biggest thief might’ve been Kobe Bryant, and he never shied away from admitting to that crime. Kobe was the embodiment of every all-time great’s go-to move, and it derived from hours and hours of watching a film and dissecting it down to the smallest detail.
Kobe got his body positioning from Oscar Robertson, as he learned how to best utilize his 6-6 frame to create space and use contact to his advantage. What he added to it was a Jerry West-inspired pull-up jump shot, the one Kobe described as ‘vicious.’ So when relying on physicality wasn’t the way, Kobe would use his wiriness and quickness to get guys off, just as the Logo did himself was doing.
Next up was getting to the basket, and Kobe’s go-to guy for that was Elgin Baylor. What set him apart was his incredible footwork and the explosive first step, so Bryant worked on adding those to his game. Elgin also taught him the power of shoulder dip, as that was what allowed the Lakers’ forward to best use the strength to his advantage. The plan was getting to that point where guys were at his mercy, and emulating Baylor’s drives was the way to do it.
Being in control when getting to the rim would allow Bryant to get his guys more involved, and he wanted to become better at that. So he turned Magic Johnson – The mentor when it comes to playmaking. What Mamba took from Magic was his ability to set plays up from the beginning and see things before they even happen. He never fully embraced Johnson’s basketball approach, as the two were completely different players. But when he was the guy making plays for others, Kobe made sure he was doing it like the one who did it the best.
In fact, that was his mentality with every aspect of the game. Whatever he was doing, he tried to mimic the best to become the best. Upstroke – one of the greatest resumes in NBA history. As I said, studying guys who did it before is the way to do it. Stealing is the name of the game, and Kobe Bryant is the ultimate proof it works.