Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion) | YouTube
It’s Kobe Week on the Hardwood Paroxysm Network and we’ve decided to put an Upside & Motor spin on it by turning back the clocks and looking at who Kobe Bryant was before he became one of the deadliest scorers to ever step foot on the NBA’s hardwood floors. Below is a scouting report based on one of his high school games played in 1996 against Norristown. We hope you enjoy it.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — We’re only weeks away from the 1996 NBA Draft and Kobe Bryant’s name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue here in New Jersey.
Bryant is supposedly the real deal. As a senior at Lower Merion High School, he led the team to its first state championship in 53 years. He was also named a McDonald’s All-American, Gatorade’s Player of the Year and Naismith Player of the Year en route to becoming Southeastern Pennsylvania’s all-time leading scorer, besting Wilt Chamberlain by over 500 points.
To say he’s a special talent would be an understatement.
Even with all those accolades, however, he’s entering the upcoming NBA Draft as a man of mystery. Playing in crowded gyms that only seat a couple of thousand rowdy fans on a nightly basis has prevented many scouts from being able to draw an accurate profile of someone who many are touting as “the next Michael Jordan.” It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him drop to the mid-to-late first round because of it.
Luckily, we’ve been able to get our hands on some footage of one of the final games he ever played at Lower Merion, a second round matchup in the district playoffs against Norristown, courtesy of BigStar2Raw. To get a better understanding of just how special he could be, we’ve broken down his performance with some film and notes.
On a turnover, Lower Merion pushes the ball in transition to take advantage of a three-on-one opportunity. It doesn’t exactly go to plan, but Bryant flaunts the type of athleticism that has scouts drooling over his potential.
The point guard, driving down the right side of the court, spots Bryant sprinting full speed on the opposite wing and attempts to reward him with an alley-oop. While Bryant is unable to convert on the play — the pass was both too high and off-target — he shows off his explosiveness and coordination by floating in the air and tipping the ball with his left hand.
Bryant takes off just inside the painted area and is still able to get a hand on the ball and slap the backboard on his descent. That’s no easy feat.
Bryant is always looking to bring the ball up court in a hurry, which allows him to attack the defense when they are back peddling.
Once he passes half court, Bryant keeps his head up and surveys the court to find any openings. With the defense loading up in the paint, he has no room to drive or get off his own shot. Reading this to perfection, Bryant keeps the defense on its toes with a stutter step when he reaches the 3-point line, only to rise up and hit his teammate open in the corner with a pinpoint pass.
With nobody closing out, Bryant records his first assist of the game as his teammate knocks down the shot with ease.
Offensively, Bryant has switched between being the facilitator and navigating through screens off the ball in an attempt to break free. Defensively, though, he’s acted as Lower Merion’s last line of defense, protecting the rim and grabbing rebounds amongst the trees.
At 6-foot-6, Bryant isn’t suited to be anything more than a perimeter player, especially at the next level. Yet given his leaping ability, he’s the team’s best option as a shot blocker, which is why he finds himself tussling with players two or three inches taller than him. He won the opening tip for Lower Merion, for example, but it’s on plays like this where the opposition grabs an offensive rebound far too easily that his lack of size puts him in a funky position.
Nevertheless, Bryant makes up for missing the rebound by timing his jump perfectly and swatting away No. 21’s shot with his left hand. As if that wasn’t enough, he also saves the ball from going out of bounds and initiates a fast break with a quick outlet pass.
Bryant has little-to-no breathing room on offense because he’s been faced with double teams on almost every single play. Clearly, Norristown knows who they are dealing with.
Even though he’s able to blow past his defender with a nice change-of-pace, Bryant is met at the rim by a shot blocker. With the defense draped all over him, he fails to capitalize on the layup and even misses a putback attempt at the rim. Even so, he doesn’t give up on the play.
With the ball heading out of bounds after being tipped by three different players, Bryant saves the ball and makes an impressive pass out to the perimeter to his teammate, who knocks down an uncontested 3-pointer.
With Bryant struggling to create his own shot in the half court, Lower Merion wisely runs a play to get their star player open on the low block.
Bryant posts up slightly lower than he should but immediately spins to the center of the court, knowing that he’s far too quick for the opposing big to keep up with him and that a double is coming his way from the baseline. Although he doesn’t score off of the play, he shows impressive footwork and speed en route to drawing a shooting foul.
Norristown’s pressure on Bryant is clearly getting to him. Whenever he attempts to drive to the basket, he’s met by a number of defenders, forcing him to finish over length or pull-up with multiple players closing out on him. As a result, he has settled for a number of long range jump shots throughout the first half.
Here, Bryant saves the ball from being turned over, preventing an uncontested layup for the opposition on the other end. But with his defender sagging off, Bryant immediately attempts an NBA-range 3-pointer once he crosses half court. To make the shot even more difficult, a second defender chases him down.
To no surprise, Bryant clangs a tough attempt off the front iron and Norristown secures the rebound. With plenty of time remaining on the shot clock, Bryant should’ve slowed down the pace and set up the offense.
Bryant is much more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and taking midrange shots, and there’s simply nothing the defense can do to stop him once he starts his shooting motion.
On a skip pass from the left wing, Bryant is faced with a one-on-one opportunity, which spells trouble for the defense. He immediately exploits the mismatch by using his leaping ability and 6-foot-6 frame to rise over the top of the defense following a power dribble. Even with two more defenders crashing down in an attempt to disrupt his shot (which just so happens to throw him off balance mid-air) he sinks an impressive basket.
After forcing him into a number of tough shots in the first half, Norristown continues to double Bryant in half court sets whenever he puts the ball on the floor. When Lower Merion moves him off of screens or find him in his sweet spots, though, he’s able to take his man one-on-one before the defense can react.
Similar to one play in the first half, Bryant posts up on the right block and receives and entry pass from the wing. While the pass is slightly too high, he’s able to corral it with his left hand, square up to the basket and rise up for an short jump shot in one seamless motion.
Even with Norristown’s center closing out on him, Bryant is able to sink the smooth shot over his outstretched hands.
With so much attention being paid to Bryant, he’s been able to find his teammates open time and time again when the defense has loaded up on him.
Bryant rips a pass out of the air and following a quick jab step, takes one dribble forward with his left hand. After just two steps, four defenders have shifted to the center of the court to cut off his lane to the basket. Instead of forcing the issue, as he has done a number of times in the second half, he leaps into the air and makes a no-look bullet pass to his teammate cutting towards the rim.
Bryant’s teammate is unable to make the layup, but he gets hacked in the air and heads to the free throw line for two opportunities.
After settling for far too many jump shots in the second half, Bryant attempts to regain his groove by pushing the ball in transition and attacking a scrambled defense.
With nobody picking him up once he pulls down a defensive rebound, Bryant calmly dribbles the ball past half court and uses a stutter step to freeze the defense and get into the lane. With only one man to beat at the rim, Bryant uses his athleticism and body control to score a layup around Norristown’s center.
Notice how smooth and under control Bryant is at all times on the drive. The combination of his size, athleticism and skill makes him a terrifying matchup.
A few possessions later, Bryant achieves the same success on another beautiful drive to the basket.
Isolated at the top of the key, Bryant blows by his defender with a hesitation dribble and lighting quick first step. Although the defense is quick to pack the paint in an attempt to stop him in his tracks, Bryant explodes to the rim once he reaches the free throw line.
Much like on the alley-oop he missed in the first quarter, Bryant glides through the air and even avoids drawing a charge.
It’s easy to see why there is so much hype surrounding Bryant as he looks to make the unprecedented jump from high school to the pros. He has the perfect build for a shooting guard in the NBA, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high school player as skilled as he is. He’s incredibly mature and there’s simply nothing he can’t do on the court.
In saying that, there are a number of concerns moving forward. For one, he falls in love with his jump shot, especially when things aren’t going his way. Against Norristown, he settled time and time again for contested midrange pull-ups and 3-pointers instead of using his athleticism and strength to get to the basket. He also has a tendency to lose his cool when he doesn’t get the ball, the result of his undeniable competitiveness. Reining that in will take a good coaching staff and levelheaded teammates. He would likely fit better on a winning team, where there is structure and guidance.
Kobe Bryant NBA Draft | YouTube
Whichever team drafts Bryant in two week’s time, though, will be getting a supreme talent — there’s no doubt about it. Although it may take him some time to tap into his full potential as he continues to refine his game and learns what it takes to be a professional, he’s certainly a risk worth investing in.
All in all, it’s going to be exciting seeing Bryant blossom into an elite player in years to come.
UPDATE: The Charlotte Hornets drafted Bryant with the 13th pick and traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac. The Hornets may end up regretting this decision in the near future.