Drinking the LeBrick Kool-Aid

Eriq La SalleContributor IJanuary 20, 2009

According to my profile, my first article was read over 70 times.  It was written in response to David Thorpe's misconception that LeBrick James was a better player than Kobe Bean Bryant. 

Well, Thorpe decided to throw out a bunch of stats and numbers that mean diddly-squat to this math major. Upon the challenge, he calmly backed down (he still hasn't responded to my last comment) and retired to his cush writing job for ESPN (a.k.a., the LeBrick James MVP campaign station.)

Now, last night, the Lakers defeated the Cavs by 17 points. Kobe was basically playing with nine fingers (possibly eight), and yet still out-performed LeBrick. I was hoping that the LeBrick-wing sports media would finally give Kobe his due...But no! 

Ladies and Gentlemen...I present to you Mark Kriegel of Foxsports.com. His article goes into how much better the Lakers were than the Cavs, how Kobe had so much help on Lebrick, how...blah, blah, blah...you get the point. 

Does he actually mention Kobe's ring finger? Of course not, that would ruin his argument. Does he talk about Kobe shooting a better percentage than LeBrick with only 8.5 fingers? Of course not, that would make the "King" a "Prince". 

Is anyone talking about Kobe's 12 assists?  Is anyone discussing Kobe's first-team all-defensive job on LeBrick?  Is anyone talking about Mark Kriegel's nonsensical article?

Look, LeBrick is a fine player. Realistically, he will go down as a probably go down as a top-25, maybe top-20 player of all-time. 

One of my favorite writers is Charley Rosen, who also works at Foxsports.com, and his analysis of LeBrick is almost identical to mine, except I'm probably a little more critical.



I've watched LeBrick almost 20 times this year and the thing that amazes me is how predictable he is on offense. Most of his great offense is showcased on ESPN, the LeBrick James network, but it's the little things that keep him from reaching to the that upper-echelon of NBA players. 

In my first article, I wrote about LeBrick's shot and how "ordinary" it is.  Never was that more apparent than last night. The Bulls exploited his poor shooting and last night, so did the Lakers.

LeBrick scores most of his points by driving to the paint (much like a younger Michael Jordan did before he developed a consistent jump shot), but when teams keep him out of the paint they effectively turn him into a jump shooter, something he is reluctant to do.

I wrote about it last time, and I'll write about it now. His shooting form is awful.  His right arm (shooting arm) needs to be more perpendicular to his left arm (non-shooting arm.) This will allow the trajectory of the ball to follow his stroke.

As it is right now, his shooting arm is flared out too wide, and as a result, his shots are too far to the right or to the left. 

Another aspect of his shot that is sorely lacking is the spin he puts on the ball. Go to a Laker game and watch Kobe shoot the ball. I was at a Bulls/Lakers game in Chicago and was shocked at how smooth the ball went through the net when Kobe shot it. 

LeBrick? His wrist action seems to stop at the peak of his stroke. Kobe and other great shooters follow the wrist with the stroke. This is key because it increases the accuracy of the shot. 

Following through is just as important as squaring up, but yet so few NBA players do it.  Just watch the difference between LeBrick's misses and Kobe's misses. When LeBrick misses, he misses big due to the way the ball bounces off the rim.

Want more proof? Just watch LeBrick at the free-throw line.

One more key aspect of LeBrick's perimeter game is the fact that he relies on screens to free himself up.  Kobe doesn't require this since his creativity allows him to create space; creativity that LeBrick just doesn't have.



"LeBrick is the best passer since Magic! Well, hell, he's the best passer ever!" This is usually the argument I hear from a die-hard Lebrick fan who attempts to explain how unselfish he is. 

Well, Magic averaged nearly five more assists per game than LeBrick. He even turned Terry Teagle into a star (ok, that's a joke). LeBrick's passing is much, much better than his shooting, but there are still flaws.  

Just like any player looking to score first (and LeBrick is no different...if he were, his assist total would be significantly higher,) LeBrick tends to pass near the end of the shot clock. This puts his shooters in a difficult position, and at times it rushes their shots. 

Kobe is equally, if not more, guilty of this violation.  LeBrick's passes are often too short, or off-target, but this is primarily a result of rushing against the shot clock. 


Team Defense

This is LeBrick's real improvement on defense (I'll get to his on-the-ball defense shortly). He's been much better at reading the lanes and anticipating passes (he picked of Kobe a couple of times,) but his gambling can lead to easy shots for the opponents and it shifts the defense of his teammates, creating a four-on-five advantage. 

His incredible speed and athleticism allow him to roam the perimeter as a "free safety," but it also causes him to cheat off his man more than he should. Fortunately, the Cavs' defensive rotation is superb and masks this aspect of LeBrick's defensive flaw. 

Because he's a forward out on the wing playing defense, this allows for those SportsCenter highlights of him blocking someone from behind in a set offense.



This is where LeBron has light years to go (he's improved...but not as much as those "experts" at ESPN would have you believe.) He did an excellent job of staying in front of Paul Pierce, but Pierce has lost a step and certainly doesn't have the speed he once had.

LeBrick has significant issues with players who have a quick first step because, in terms of lateral movement, LeBrick is a step slower than many wing players.  This is primarily due to his enormous bulk. 

His defensive stance is not as low as it should be (primarily because he concentrates on being a "free safety" instead of a "lock-down cornerback"). LeBrick still has "heavy feet" and this allows him to get beaten off the dribble. (As Kobe did a couple of times, although on one position he was able to keep up with Kobe and rip the ball out of his hands.)

LeBrick is also a mediocre post-up defender. It's understandable that players don't want to pick up silly, tick-tack fouls early in the game, but I've seen LeBrick posted up before. He seems to be slow on anticipation in the post and is easily beaten when his opponent spins on him. 

Last night, LeBrick played excellent on-ball defense on Kobe, but Kobe's offensive repertoire is almost unlimited. His ability to improvise, combined with his excellent shooting technique, make him impossible to shut down, even when stuck in a hopeless situation out on the perimeter. 

On three possessions in particular, he exploited the "King's" shortcomings on individual defense. His shot from the right baseline as the shot clock winding down, his shot from the left baseline when he was fouled, and a corner three-pointer all symbolize this. 

With LeBrick's length and athleticism, he should've gotten a hand on the ball, but Kobe is almost always able to shoot the ball just before LeBrick can get a hand on it. Anticipation, just one more thing Kobe has that LeBrick doesn't.

This may seem eerily similar to my first article, but after watching last night's matchup between the Cavs and Lakers, I felt that I needed to be more specific. Especially since people like Mark Kreigel are writing more garbage about how much better LeBrick is than Kobe.