Never one to mince words, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant found an interesting subject for his ire: AAU basketball.
Speaking to reporters after Saturday's 121-103 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Bryant said AAU culture is not instilling correct values in young players, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:
I hate it because it doesn't teach our players how to play the right way, how to think the game, how to play in combinations of threes. I think everything is a reward system. I think the coaches who are teaching the game are getting rewarded in one fashion or another. It's just a showcase. I think it's absolutely horrible for the game.
Bryant has never been shy with his disdain for what AAU stands for.
Kobe told reporters in January 2015 that European players are more skilled because of the way the game is being taught in the United States, and he emphasized it in a November interview with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski on SiriusXM (h/t Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News):
AAU basketball is just killing us. There's so many games being played without a concept of how to play them. Everything is off the ball and how to beat your man off the ball. There's no concept of playing two-man game or three-man combinations. That concept is a lost art.
Bryant, who will call it quits after the 2015-16 season, said altering the course of youth basketball will be one of his goals in retirement.
"I think we're doing a tremendous disservice to our young basketball players right now," Bryant said, per Holmes. "That's something that definitely needs to be fixed, and it's going to definitely be one of the things that I focus on."
Bryant's take on this subject is interesting given the polarizing nature of his playing style. Throughout his career, Bryant has teetered on the line of elite volume scorer and gunner. His 2005-06 season featured the single highest usage rate ever recorded by Basketball-Reference.com, and he currently ranks ninth among qualifying players in the statistic despite playing the worst basketball of his career.
One could argue the Bryant/Allen Iverson generation is partially to blame for the hero-ball mentality that's prevalent throughout AAU competition.
That said, no one has ever argued Bryant is incapable of playing the right way. His basketball IQ ranks right there with the most heady players in NBA history. Bryant's mind is perhaps the most underrated aspect of his legend, so if he can pass some of that knowledge along to young talent, it only bodes well for the game's future.
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