Kobe Bryant: Perception Versus Reality
This article was originally published on February 25, 2005 at
HoopsHype.com but the link no longer works, so I have reprinted the
article in its entirety below.
Kobe Bryant (27.8 ppg, 6.6 apg and 6.2 rpg), LeBron James (25.4 ppg, 7.7 apg and 7.1 rpg) and Dwyane Wade
(23.5 ppg, 7.3 apg and 5.2 rpg) are three of the top perimeter players
in the NBA. Each ranks in the top ten in scoring and is a nightly
triple-double threat, yet James and Wade are lauded for making their
teammates better while Bryant has been widely labeled as selfish. Among
those who consider that criticism unfair is veteran NBA player,
assistant coach and head coach Fred Carter, who currently analyzes games for NBA TV.
some people perception is reality," Carter said. "The echoed word
becomes the accepted word. It becomes the choice phrase. But he won
titles and he does get the assists. He does get steals and he does get
blocks. He's not a guy who just plays on the offensive end. What happens
is that people have the tendency to echo the words of everyone else.
field goal percentage is hovering around the .410 mark, which would be a
career low. This is the main statistical ax that critics grind against
Bryant, saying that he is more focused on winning the scoring title than
making his team better. But that argument has flaws, according to Carter. "Any time a guy is a volume-shooting guy like Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson,
the shooting percentage is going to be down because they attract a lot
more defensive attention. Spot-up shooters or stand-still shooters,
plays are run for them and that's basically all they can do, spot up and
shoot, so they get open shots and knock them down. People kind of get
confused with field goal percentages and the quality of the baskets that
you make. Kobe makes a lot of quality baskets. I don't look at his
field goal percentage. I look at the productivity of his shots in terms
of the fourth quarter and what shots he makes then."
Bob Chaikin, whose fine statistical research can be found at bballsports.com,
ranks shooting efficiency with a statistic called scoring field goal
percentage. The formula is: (Two point field goals made + 1.5 X Three
point field goals made + Free throws made/2) / (Field goals attempted +
Free throws attempted/2). This
method provides a more complete picture than field goal percentage does
because it accounts for the added value of three-pointers made plus the
points produced by drawing fouls and making free throws.
(.491) and Wade (.478) have better field goal percentages than Bryant
does, but neither makes as many three-pointers or free throws as Bryant.
Consequently, as of February 22, Bryant's scoring field goal percentage
of .529 is not much worse than James' .551 and Wade's .544.
The league average for scoring field goal percentage is around .520, a figure that Bryant and each of the Laker
starters exceed. Bryant is not merely padding his individual scoring
numbers. The defensive attention that he attracts and his playmaking
skills are leading the team to an above average level of shooting
efficiency. This is significant, especially considering that the other
four starters are Chucky Atkins, Chris Mihm, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler,
none of whom has played in even one All-Star Game. Meanwhile, James and
Wade are each teamed with All-Star centers. Laker center Mihm, a career
journeyman, has benefited greatly playing alongside Bryant, enjoying
career highs in scoring, rebounding and assists. In addition to their
above average scoring field goal percentages, each Laker starter (other
than Bryant) is also posting a career high in traditional field goal
analyst Fred Carter notes that by getting to the free throw line
frequently Bryant does not just enhance his individual statistics, but
he also creates more free throw opportunities for his teammates and
causes foul trouble for the opposing team.
Kobe is out of the offense the Lakers do not get into the bonus as
quickly as they normally do. Check free throws attempted and see how
they were with Kobe playing versus now (when Kobe missed 14 games)."
area worth examining is versatility. One would expect that a selfish
player does nothing but shoot. Nine NBA players have amassed triple
doubles this season. Bryant and Chris Webber are tied for second with four, trailing only Jason Kidd's five. James has two and Wade has one. James has 18 double doubles, while Wade has 13 and Bryant 12.
critics are quick to counter that he leads the league in turnovers at
4.4 per game, but Wade ranks second at 4.2 and James is seventh at 3.2.
MVP candidate and league assists leader Steve Nash ranks
eighth at 3.1. Turnovers have only been recorded by the NBA since
1977-78, but since that time it has been common for great playmakers
such as Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas to
rank among the league leaders in this category. Players who commit a
lot of turnovers generally fall into one of two categories: great
players who have tremendous scoring/playmaking responsibilities and big
men with bad hands.
making one's team better is reflected in wins and losses and most NBA
games are decided down the stretch. While great players strive to keep
their teammates involved throughout the game, in the closing moments it
is often necessary to take over the game. Tracy McGrady's 13 points in the final 35 seconds to defeat the San Antonio Spurs earlier this season are perhaps the ultimate recent example of this.
consistently elevates his game in clutch situations and this year he is
leading the NBA in fourth quarter scoring at over 8.5 ppg. Carter says
that Bryant has two traits that enable him to thrive in crucial moments. "One
is competitiveness. He stays at a high level of competitiveness. Also,
energy level. A lot of players get tired (but) the great players don't
get tired. They have a special level of energy; they can tap that source
and they can still stay at a high level of efficiency and proficiency.
That's Kobe Bryant; he is able to do that. MJ
was the same way. There are certain players who can raise their energy
level for the fourth period and Kobe Bryant can do that."
course, offense is only part of the game. Second-year players James and
Wade have each made notable progress this season on the defensive end,
but Bryant has already made the All-Defensive Team five times during his
career, including three First Team selections. Bryant made the All-NBA
First Team and the All-Defensive First Team each of the last two
Bryant missed 14 games due to a severe right ankle sprain, the Lakers
struggled to a 6-8 mark and his absence was felt at least as much on
defense as on offense, Laker coach Frank Hamblen points out: "He is one
of those guys who is talking defensively and helping defensively. The
way he plays, as hard as he plays, the other guys feed off that."
TNT analyst Charles Barkley has mentioned on several occasions that he believes there are only three true superstars in the NBA: Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. A glance at the Western Conference standings shows that Garnett's Timberwolves
and Bryant's Lakers are among the teams fighting for the final playoff
spot. Garnett has two former All-Stars playing beside him and basically
the same nucleus that made it to the Western Conference Finals last
year, while Bryant's Lakers have been almost completely reconstituted.
Postseason success is the best way to silence critics. If Kobe Bryant
stays healthy for the remainder of the season, he will have a great
opportunity to refute not only those who question his ability to make
his teammates better but also Barkley and anyone else who denies that he
is a true superstar.
Labels: Fred Carter, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan
posted by David Friedman @ 12:35 PM
We Are Family
Note: Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" was released a few years after the NBA-ABA merger, but it is the perfect theme song to represent how ABA players feel about each other. This article was originally published on March 2, 2005 at HoopsHype.com but the link no longer works, so I have reprinted the article in its entirety below.
Loyalty and togetherness.
unbreakable bonds connecting most ABA players were renewed and
strengthened throughout the "ABA Ol' School Reunion," which took place
in Denver during the 2005 NBA All-Star Weekend. The Reunion was organized by Fatty Taylor, who played seven years in the ABA, and his longtime friend James Render.
got the idea for the Reunion because the NBA All-Star Game was coming
to Denver, Colorado, which is an ABA city," Taylor said. "So it is only
fitting to have a Reunion for all the ABA guys. I just decided to get
all the guys together in a spirit of fellowship. We figured that it is a
chance just to see each other again. There is no telling when your day
will come. It started off as a big party, but it turned into more than I
thought it would."
The ABA Reunion is not an "official" NBA All-Star Weekend event and this does not bother Taylor at all. "I
just thought that it was something that I really wanted to do--getting
in touch with guys who I haven't seen in years. They were happy and
wanted to see each other. See, the ABA players are a little different
from the NBA players. We had a close-knit league. The NBA tried to
destroy us and never wanted to see us make it. We played hard and we
tried hard (to not let that happen)."
Taylor would like to make the ABA Reunion an annual event. "This
is something that could be for us every year at the All-Star Game--an
ABA Reunion, having different festivities. Everybody likes each other
and we are happy to see each other. When we played against each other,
we went out there and played hard, but after the game we would go out
and party and have a good time. We just want to relive some of those
The festivities began on Thursday, February 17 when several ABA players--including Rick Darnell, Mike Davis, Willie Davis, Joe Hamilton, Eugene "Goo" Kennedy, Warren Jabali and James Silas--gathered at Denver's East High School to sign autographs and
reminisce. Riding in a yellow Hummer stretch limo to the school, the
players regaled each other with stories. Not surprisingly, Julius Erving featured prominently in several of them--both for his ABA exploits and for his summer-league displays.
Hamilton described a Dr. J move that was so otherworldly that Hamilton
fell off of the bench in amazement and was fined by his coach for not
keeping his mind on the game. Several players mentioned the Doctor
destroying Sidney Wicks in a summer-league game after Wicks had
proclaimed that he was going to shut down Erving. Asked about this
later, Erving remembered the incident, saying that it happened at the Willie Naulls game in Los Angeles.
Mike Davis described a Rucker League encounter when Connie Hawkins blocked Wilt Chamberlain's
patented fadeaway jumper, except that he was not satisfied to just
block it--he wiped the ball all over the backboard before sweeping in
the rebound. After that, Chamberlain discarded the fade away for that
evening and proceeded to dunk on everybody in sight.
who lives in New York, got up at 4 am and had to take a flight with a
Las Vegas connection to arrive in Denver. When the pilot said that the
plane was flying over Colorado, Davis felt like saying, "Hey, drop me
off here!" He was tired and hungry during the drive to East High School,
but would not have missed the ABA Reunion for the world. Signing
autographs and interacting with fans has a special meaning to Davis,
who explained that he'll never forget meeting a professional basketball
player for the first time when Carl Braun, the New York Knicks' star guard in the 1950s, spoke at the Boys and Girls Club that Davis went to as a child.
of the fans at the East High School event had not even been born when
the ABA existed, but others had vivid memories of the league. One older
gentleman brought with him a program from the 1984 NBA All-Star Game,
which was held in McNichols Arena in Denver and featured several ex-ABA
players. When he seemed a bit reticent about asking for autographs,
Darnell came over, talked with him, asked him which players he was
looking for and made sure that he got the signatures he wanted.
Jabali is a very interesting figure. When it is suggested to him that
it is amazing that one year he averaged 10 rpg as a 6-2 guard/forward
going against much taller players, he says simply, "They couldn't jump."
There is no pretense to his comments and no extra words--he gets
straight to the point. Most of the ABA players are quick with a joke or a
comment, but Jabali is more reticent, perhaps because he feels that he
has been misquoted and misrepresented previously. He has a Jim
Brown-like presence--quiet, but strong and confident.
the appearance at East High School, which was covered by the local Fox
television affiliate in Denver, the players headed back to the
Doubletree Hotel for the Welcome Reception. While a DJ spun songs from
the 1970s, the ABA players renewed acquaintances and interacted with
fans who bought tickets for the event.
That night Hamilton told me about playing on the 1974-75 Kentucky Colonels team that won the ABA Championship. He recalls that when Coach Hubie Brown arrived, things changed. "We're
like, 'Hubie, come on, we're veterans.' We practiced like it was the
first day. It could be February the 15th and we've played 60 games.
We're still practicing like it's the first day, but that's Hubie. Hubie
knew every nook and cranny of this game. Any situation that would come
up, Hubie Brown had something for it. His knowledge of the game was just
indicated that Brown's encyclopedic understanding of basketball mirrors
the football wizardry of the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick. Hamilton knows something about football. He used to work as the Athletic Director for Louisville's youth programs and his son Joey III is an assistant coach at Male High School in Louisville, winners of three state football championships under the direction of Bob Redman (father of NFL quarterback Chris Redman).
On Friday, the players did more autograph signings. During the Reunion weekend, Lelands.com donated its expertise to coordinate in person signings by over 20 ABA players--including Hall of Famers Julius Erving, George Gervin and Moses Malone--of 300 basketballs and will sell the limited edition balls over the
next year, with some of the proceeds benefiting the Colorado Hawks,
Taylor's AAU team for fourth through twelfth graders.
Friday night's "Ol' School ABA Reunion Party" at Invesco Field featured a performance by India.Arie, daughter of five-time ABA All-Star Ralph Simpson.
She performed several of her hits, including "Video" and "Talk to Her,"
plus material from her new CD. Throughout the evening, video screens
showed montages of ABA highlights, which were provided by Arthur
Hundhausen, webmaster of the Remember the ABA website
players frequently point out that at the time of the merger, the NBA
needed what the ABA had: the best young players--like Erving, Gervin,
Malone, David Thompson and Artis Gilmore--and an
exciting, free-flowing game. Hundhausen's videos provided evidence of
this, showcasing a fun, fast-moving game featuring ball and player
movement, good shooting, dramatic dunks and devastating blocked shots.
is amazing that Gilmore, one of the great all-around centers in the
history of the game, is not in the Hall of Fame and is not even among
this year's finalists for the honor. Gilmore is stoic and resigned about
the mystifying snub, although he poignantly notes that induction would
have meant more to him if he had received it before the passing of his
mother within the last year.
Saturday was an open day for the players to rest and unwind. On Sunday
morning, hundreds of retired NBA and ABA players attended the NBA
Retired Players Association's annual brunch at the Hyatt Regency/Denver
Tech Center. Cedric the Entertainer served as emcee and several ABA players and coaches received awards--including Byron Beck (Original Denver Nugget), Larry Brown (Coach of the Year; he was unable to attend the ceremony), Spencer Haywood (Legend Award), Dan Issel (Founder Award), Doug Moe (Humanitarian Award) and David Thompson (Mr. Denver Nugget Award). Lafayette "Fat" Lever (Community Service Award) and Kiki Vandeweghe (Basketball Executive Award), who both played for the Nuggets in the NBA, were also recognized.
The ABA Reunion concluded Sunday evening with a gathering at the
Seawell Ballroom in the Denver Center of Performing Arts, just a few
blocks from the Pepsi Center. The ABA players joined fans to watch the
NBA All-Star Game on big screen TVs. After the game ended, the party was
just beginning, as the screens switched to Hundhausen's ABA highlight
video montages. The After Party lasted until past 1 am. Some retired NBA
players stopped by as well, including current Hall of Fame finalist Adrian Dantley.
Four-time All-ABA guard Mack Calvin
put the whole weekend into perspective: "I think that what is important
and special about this is that the ABA players--Doc and Gervin and all
the guys--have always been a unit. A lot of guys can think about doing
their own thing, but those guys have always been team guys. There has
always been some camaraderie. I think that this exemplifies the overall
attitude for over 30 years. The ABA guys are like a family. We had to
stick together in order to survive. It's all about seeing these guys and
talking about the old days."
Labels: 2005 ABA Reunion, Eugene "Goo" Kennedy, Fatty Taylor, George Gervin, James Silas, Joe Hamilton, Julius Erving, Mack Calvin, Mike Davis, Moses Malone, Rick Darnell, Warren Jabali, Willie Davis
posted by David Friedman @ 12:49 PM