Even though Kobe Bryant retired following the 2015-16 NBA season, Kobe Bryant has remained close to the game he loves.
Many NBA players participated in workouts with him at the Mamba Sports Academy this summer and others such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kyle Kuzma have spoken about learning and working out with him as well. Another young player who worked out with him last summer is Jayson Tatum.
Tatum admitted that he was a huge Bryant fan growing up and after a promising rookie season, he spent time working with him ahead of his sophomore season. Unfortunately, the results were not what many had hoped as Tatum didn’t take the leap many expected and looked at his workouts with Bryant as a reason for that as he began living in the mid-range, but not with the same success.
Now going into his third season, Tatum is looking to develop his game more into one that fits this era’s style of play and he spoke with Tim Bontemps of ESPN about what went wrong last season:
“[I was] making the game tougher than I probably should have,” Tatum said last week.
He’d dribble into difficult midrange shots, including fadeaways. Those were shots Kobe Bryant, who worked with Tatum in the summer of 2018, made a living taking — and making. But the NBA has since evolved into a league hyper-focused on shots at the rim and beyond the arc — and, last year, Tatum didn’t take enough of either.
However, Tatum later defended Bryant after the ESPN article was published, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:
“I’m still going to shoot the mid-range. I’ve seen all the people talking about the de-Kobeing. Kobe didn’t teach me anything bad. Everything we talked about and he showed me was great. Last year, with the jump I didn’t make that everybody expected, it was not his fault. He’s one of the greatest ever, so everything he taught me was—I’m very grateful, and it helped me. I’ve got to take responsibility for how I played last year not being as big of a jump that people thought. But I’m still going to shoot mid-range.”
This era is all about analytics and the numbers say the best shots in basketball are three-pointers, layups, and free throws. Of course, everyone can’t be an excellent three-point shooter and there is nothing wrong with working the mid-range if one can hit them at a high percentage.
Bryant was an outstanding mid-range shooter, but he also lived at the free-throw line as well, averaging over seven attempts per game for his career.
Tatum is still a very young player and has all the potential in the world as he continues to grow. Perhaps things didn’t work out yet, but there is no doubt that some of the things he learned from Bryant will allow him to succeed in the end.