“Why do you think I’m the best player in the world? Because I never ever get bored with the basics.” -Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is one of the greats, no doubt. Michael Jordan even admitted that Kobe is the only player who deserves comparison (to MJ) because he is the only one who has actually worked hard enough. Kobe’s work ethic is undeniable and if you type that in Google, there are countless great articles and videos to convince you. But what’s so great to dig into further is what Kobe works on…
Kobe is a true master of the fundamentals. Of the simple. Think about it like this: picture Kobe, already an NBA champion with the Lakers, an NBA All Star, drafted straight out of high school, in an empty gym working on his footwork? Shaq said, “You’d walk in there and he’d be cutting and grunting and motioning like he was dribbling and shooting - except there was no ball.” He worked tirelessly to perfect the basic movements-feet, hips, counter moves. Other teammates and competitors talk about how it was impossible to outwork his time in the gym. He motivated me in high school because I read about the volume of shots he put up in a summer to prepare for the next season (Kobe practices making shots, not just taking them—Kobe made 100,000 shots…in a summer).
He spoke to a group in China, and he simplified the answer to this question, “What moves can I work on to be successful.” Kobe said “I have two moves: right pull-up shoot, left pull-up shoot. In the post: turn left shoulder, fadeaway. Turn right, fadeaway. Make the game simple.” He was successful with this mindset as he trained, because he spent hours and hours and hours practicing that “simple” move. So many reps that he could unconsciously do it at the high level he needed to against the best defenders in the world. Can you imagine how boring it is to continuously work on and rep your turnaround jumper in the post? Most people stop miles before Kobe stopped.
I could go on about Kobe’s obsession with the details and how he simplified the game of basketball, but the most remarkable part of Kobe to me, and the number one reason he is one of the greats, is that he didn’t let boredom get in the way of his pursuit of his goals. He dug in, and he allowed the repetitive boring practice to become his love. Because he was so competitive-he just wanted it. The journey through that boredom to perfect his craft became so natural to him that he needed it.
Thanks for reading, and please watch this video from Alan Stein, who got to see up close and personal in 2007 how “boring” Kobe could be.
I worked with Point Guard College over the summer and was so excited and moved by the level of basic fundamentals that we taught the athletes at our sessions…and how much each player improved by applying the basics to competitive play. One idea we taught stood out to me, especially with the younger athletes who often want to mimic the moves they see on TV: “Simple over sizzle.” Everyone wants to shoot deep three’s like Curry, step backs like Harden, but is that really going to help them? In a real game? At their age and competition level?
Kobe Bryant evaluates the effectiveness of Kyrie Irving’s game, and he acknowledges that, yes, Kyrie has some sizzle at times, but Kyrie is a master of the basics. He is a deadly shooter, he can beat you left or right, he knows how and when to hit his teammates. Kobe says, “Shooting is the key that opens every door the game has to offer.” How does the defense guard you if you can’t shoot the ball? Sometimes, young players forget that these professionals are masters of the fundamentals, then they add some sizzle here and there.
Having the maturity and focus to choose the simple over the sizzle makes your time spent in the gym much much more productive. Some players want to work on step backs and complicated footwork when they cannot even use their weak hand confidently. There is a time and a place to add deception to your game, but what you should spend the majority of your time repping is the simple fundamentals: your shot, your passing, your handle, your movement without the ball. Can you finish/pass with both hands? Can you consistently knock down a 16 foot shot off the catch and off the bounce? How effective is your shot fake?
The game of basketball is infinitely deep…you will never be “good enough” to stop adding to your game. But be sure to evaluate that you are working on the simple basics regularly, because that is what prepares you to be successful in game situations. Simple over Sizzle.
Stay Tuned: Part 2, Kobe’s boring workout
In honor of the first week of the NFL season, I wanted to share this video of a short interview with JJ Watt, defensive end for the Houston Texans. Watt, who played college football at Wisconsin, has been a pro since 2011 and has won defensive player of the year three times (’12, ’14, ’15).
In this video he answers the question, “How do you get better, when you’re already very good at what you do?” He hits so much truth in his answers. My highlights are below, but watch for yourself!
"Get Better" is our PEAK blog, providing you with content to help enhance your game, your mind, and your relentless pursuit of the process! Enjoy.
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