Kobe Bean Bryant was an expert at putting the ball through the hoop. Through 20 years in the NBA, he averaged about 25 points per game and captured two scoring titles during the height of his powers.
Today, Bryant is most known for scoring ability, which featured a lot of amazing and tough shots from all over the basketball court.
But Bryant wasn't just a great scorer, he was also a master defender -- and it's an aspect of his game that has gone largely unappreciated today.
The guy made 12 All-Defensive teams during his playing days, a pretty impressive feat for somebody with so many responsibilities on the other end of the floor.
Natural talent and hard work no doubt played a hand in his defensive performance, but so too did Gary Payton, who apparently gave Bryant some advice that made everything click for him.
Here's an excerpt from his book, "The Mamba Mentality: How I Play" which was published in 2018:
It was 2000, and I was having problems getting over screens when guarding the ball. When the All-Star Game came around, and Gary Payton and I were warming up together, I pulled him aside.
“Gary,” I said, “I’m having trouble getting through screens. What do I do?”
He was a great competitor, but he took the time to walk me through his approach. He told me I had to make myself thin and, I’ll never forget this, move my puppies. He explained I had to slide, not run, through the screen and to do so I had to make myself as small as I could and move my feet as quickly as possible. Almost, he explained, like a sheet of paper going through a door.
After the All-Star break, I worked on it constantly in practice. I just kept plugging away. Not coincidentally, that was the first year I made First Team All-Defensive.
Being able to get through screens is a key part of being a solid defender in the NBA. For Bryant, he was able to master the practice by slimming down, moving his feet, and doing it over and over again in practice.
It's safe to say things worked out for Kobe in the end, as his two-sided game helped establish him as one of basketball's All-Time greatest players.