In the 1980s, Michael Jordan caused a stylistic revolution in professional basketball. He was not the first great winger in the sport, but Jordan was the first to absolutely dominate the league.
His epic battles against the Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz were not only battles for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, but also for the future direction of the sport. MJ won by allowing the perimeter drivers to take control in the NBA.
In 1992, at the height of Jordan in America, Gatorade launched a legendary advertising campaign that challenged all young hoppers to “Be Like Mike.” Of the millions who tried, only one came close. It was Kobe Bryant, who made his NBA debut with the Los Angeles Lakers a few years later. Bryant managed to continue the stylistic revolution that Jordan started in the 1980s and 1990s well into the 2000s. The torch has been passed on.
Since his death a year ago, Bryant has left many important legacies, but the mark he left on the look and feel of modern professional basketball is one of the most lasting.
Jordan and Bryant were good friends and had some tactical similarities that will forever link the two all-time greats. Their back-to-back careers also changed the greatness of basketball at the highest level. After a generation of young players grew up with MJ as their idol, the next crop fell on Bryant.
Both players transcend typical athletic dominance by combining their championships, MVP awards and brand titles with aesthetic genius. Not only have these guys dominated the best league on the planet, but they’ve made that dominance pretty darn cool. The rising stars of the league have developed their own style, showing off their boldness, hanging tongue and confidence.
The tandem that dominated both the rankings and SportsCenter has broken away from the big boys of the NBA and given way to versatile and courageous wingers. They have made the professional hoop faster, more open and, most importantly, improved.
In the 25 years leading up to Jordan’s first year, games were won and lost in the tight trenches, with the NBA awarding the MVP title to crosses 21 times. That has happened only once in the past 25 years.
Today’s NBA is more dominated by the precise perimeter skills and overall versatility that Bryant’s game embodies. That’s not a coincidence. Just as Bryant grew up with MJ, Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Klay Thompson and Paul George grew up with Bryant, who regularly won titles and humiliated opponents in Southern California.
Many of these stars have used Bryant’s success as their own way into the NBA.
During the 2011 NBA Draft, the DraftExpress named Leonard of San Diego State the best wing defender in the category, but pointed out some major problems with his game, namely his shooting.
Leonard was selected 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers before being traded to the San Antonio Spurs. No one doubted Leonard’s courage, defense or work ethic, but the numbers didn’t lie – his sweater needed significant improvement.
Leonard and the Spurs were together for only a week before the 161-day NBA lockout banned any contact between players and coaches. The Spurs’ famed shooting coach, Chip Angelland, came up with a plan. After studying Leonard’s mechanics, he took a few shots of Bryant to show Leonard making less than 30% of his triples in college, in part because of his awkward shot from the top of the key.
England has always admired Bryant’s form and his star pupil. Although the Spurs and Lakers were embroiled in a decade-long battle for control of the Western Conference, England and Leonard used their superstar rival as a model for what would become one of the most impressive player development paths in the modern NBA. (Full disclosure: England and I worked together on the Spurs from 2016 to 2018).
The shooting coach noted Bryant’s impeccable elbow placement, the way he always kept his hand under the ball, and challenged the rookie to mimic Bryant’s form as best he could during the lockout.
“Bryant was very good at hitting,” England told ESPN, recalling a conversation they had with Bryant about the technique of hitting. “Some people just swing at baseball, while others really know their swings. He really knew the technique.”
England and Leonard make rapid progress-partly because of Leonard’s immense talent and drive, but also because they have found an ideal role model whom they both respect.
Defenders could have easily influenced Leonard’s shot when he was a freshman. One of the most important steps in Leonard’s development was a slight increase in his release point.
“He raised his release point one summer and it was a big deal; after that, I don’t know who’s going to get his chance now,” Angelland said. “In that sense, it’s Kobean. It’s hard to get to him because he’s sitting back. It’s very hard to block it.
Misunderstanding. The specified.example of Film not specified.Kobe Bryant helped Kawhi Leonard improve his jump shot and become a star. Victor DeColongon/Getty Images
Leonard has now become both a double MVP in the Finals and one of the game’s most versatile goal scorers. Poetically winning the inaugural Kia NBA Kobe Bryant star player award in 2020, Leonard’s biggest move to put the Raptors ahead in Game 7 of the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals was a clean Mamba. Leonard made blocking impossible, even for a giant superstar like Joel Embiid.
“Their vision for Kobe is generally not a jump shot, it’s an angled shot, and the Kochi shot in Toronto is an example of the ultimate angled shot,” Angelland said. “It was a damn good fake shot. ”
Just as Jordan and Bryant destroyed their own share of centers and leaders on the career ladder, this generation of new stars, inspired by Bryant, continues that trend. Centers are more interchangeable than ever. It is important to have wings to score points both ways.
England pointed out that the similarities between Bryant and Leonard do not stop at mechanics.
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“They’ve both done thousands of rehearsals,” he said. “First you learn the technique, then you do the rehearsals, and that gives you confidence. By playing the ball with technique and repetition, you build confidence to make those big shots. It’s a great combination.
That brings us to our next point as we look at Bryant’s legacy in today’s game: tremendous superstar pressure in a time of crisis. The Hall of Famer recorded 2,028 clutch attempts – defined as a shot when the score is less than five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. That’s the highest number of players in the last 25 seasons. Including the playoffs, Bryant made 89 clutch attempts in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or OT – the most such attempts in that period.
A few years ago, Chris Paul recalled that one of Bryant’s iconic players – his elbow strike against the Phoenix Suns in the 2006 qualifiers – had stuck with him.
“Kobe didn’t even look at the edge,” Paul said. “It was like he was on point.” “If you look at that game, it was like there was an ‘X’ somewhere on the field, and Kobe said, ‘As soon as I get there, I’m going to boom.
This approach influenced one of Paul’s most memorable moments: his incredible victory in the seventh game against the Spurs in the first round of the 2015 qualifiers – perhaps the best move in Paul’s history. Even Bog Point knew when it was time to do it himself.
By the end of his career, Bryant had mentored dozens of young players, including Leonard. He advised them on basketball and business matters. He coached the players in the offseason, making them train harder, preparing them better, respecting their bodies and taking into account their mental approach.
Those lessons will be seen on the court Wednesday night when the Kobe Lakers visit the Philadelphia 76ers, and the legacy of the Mamba mentality will not go away.
Frequently asked questions
What is Kobe Bryant’s legacy?
He is the only NBA player to have had a 20-year career on the same team. Kobe’s raw statistics are those of another world: five championships, two Finals MVPs, one regular-season MVP, a third career MVP, 15 NBA teams, 18-time All-Star, four-time scoring champion, and the list goes on and on.
Does Kobe Bryant have a past in the NBA?
He also scored more points, took more free throws and made more rotations than any other goalie in history. During his career, Bryant scored 33,643 points, 8,378 free throws and 4,010 rotations. All three are records related to his position.
What are Kobe Bryant’s last words?
“Kobe Bryant’s final words revealed.” He wrote to his agent to help him find a job for a friend’s daughter.