Heat vs. Lakers: 10 Things LeBron James Could Learn from Kobe Bryant
At five on Christmas Day, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant will square off in a Heat vs. Lakers matchup. In the matchup that many believe we'll see in the NBA Finals, Miami Thrice faces Kobe and the Twin Towers.
The matchup ends up being fairly equal, perhaps despite the fact that LeBron is in his prime, while Kobe is entering the downswing of his career. Before the torch can be passed by Kobe to another of the current greats, LeBron and the others have to prove they can run with it, and to do so, there are a few things that LeBron has to learn from Kobe if he wants to be this generation's star.
Discipline and Studying
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I don't doubt that LeBron makes sure to keep himself in top physical condition. What I mean, rather, is that Kobe is one person in the league that will go out of his way not only to keep his game at top level, but to watch film, find any possible ways to improve his game, and make sure he's the first in the gym and the last out.
LeBron (and arguably any other basketball player, for that matter) should be adopting that type of attitude, especially when they're meant to be a leader.
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The main knock on LeBron on the court has been his struggles from mid-range. It has improved over the years, I'll give him that, but it's not on Kobe's level. Then again, Kobe can make just about any kind of shot from 15 feet out, even if it's a very difficult one to make.
LeBron has the advantage on attacking the basket with his strength, but outside of the paint, Kobe is in a class of his own.
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Going off of his shooting, one of the main reasons that Kobe is as good a shooter as he is is the result of his footwork. Slam Online said it best, noting:
"So what is the main reason behind Kobe shooting 41 percent and hitting 2.5 mid-range shots per game? It all starts with his pristine footwork, which he uses to create favorable position to get a good look at the basket. Kobe catches the ball and surveys the floor better than anybody in the game right now."
Getting in a position to get the ball in the basket is half the battle, and Kobe is the best in the game at that. If LeBron wants to be elite, he has to work on that as much as he can.
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When LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach, he ended up teaming with other stars, and the question arose if he actually wanted to be the number-one guy on a team. To be a true star, you have to be willing to be that top guy. There's no question he used to be that, and there's no question Kobe has always been that for the Lakers.
Are the Miami Heat LeBron's team or Dwyane Wade's team? That will have to be decided sooner rather than later.
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We all knew this one was coming. If you name the top clutch performers in the NBA today, two things happen: Kobe will appear on the list, and LeBron will not appear on the list. Whatever happened against Boston last year, it showed that LeBron is usually not able to close games out.
Having said this, according to an ESPN article not even a week ago, James has been great in the clutch this season so far. That's all well and good, just as long as he can actually be clutch in the playoffs when it matters.
Let Coaches Coach
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Head coaches are given their jobs for a reason: to lead the team to a title. This one might be harder for LeBron to grasp, since Kobe has had the luxury of playing under Phil Jackson. LeBron has not been associated with any coaches in Jackson's league.
That being said, if a coach has a plan in place, just follow it. LeBron has not been able to grasp this, as evident by his bump of Eric Spoelstra earlier this year. Coaches and players don't have to like each other, but they better respect each other, or else no titles will come their way.
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How do people remember Kobe? Most remember him as a top player, not many remember the huge problems he had many years back. How do people remember LeBron? Right now, many see him as a guy who decided to declare his free agency destination late in the game on national television, without giving heads up to anyone.
How does one come back from that? That's not the problem in and of itself, the problem is that many of LeBron's action seem to further dig himself into a hole. Kobe, instead of dwelling on court problems, instead decided to..
Let Work Speak For Itself
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The best way for LeBron to fix most enemies he's made (outside of Cleveland, at least) is just to go out, play basketball, and be dominant on the court. A year after the sexual assault allegations were behind him, Bryant went on to have his two most productive individual seasons. No titles were won, but he everaged 30-plus points both years, including 35.4 in 05-06.
If Lebron were to have a season like that, or better yet, average a triple double at his new home, people would forget about the decision and focus on that milestone.
Don't Be a One-Man Team
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Ironically, this step makes the move to Miami suddenly look smart, and this is something Kobe has had to re-learn at times himself. As noted in the previous slide, when he had his 30-point games, the Lakers lost in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, in the Lakers' threepeat, how many times did Kobe lead the team, let alone the league in scoring?
He didn't, Shaq did. With the Heat, James and Wade have been back and forth in who has the points lead, and this may be a good idea. There's a difference between being the team leader and being a one-man team. LeBron started veering to the latter late in his tenure with the Cavs after usually being the best team leader out there. Much like Kobe in 2005-07, LeBron has to re-learn this now.
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This sounds more like a PSA than basketball advice, but think about it. Everyone tries to compare Kobe and LeBron to Michael Jordan, or the two to each other. Neither are MJ, LeBron isn't Kobe and Kobe isn't LeBron.
Kobe at least knows that he's his own star. He has made his own legacy through the Lakers through his shooting touch and clutch game changers. LeBron, meanwhile, attacks the basket and causes other players to have open shots. Both methods of the game are great, and don't have to be changed to fit an image of being next. Kobe knows this, and I would hope LeBron knows what his own role is with Miami.