Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is known for his five NBA championship rings and, more specifically, his amazing scoring ability. But did you know that Kobe has been on the NBA’s All-Defensive team 11 times in his 15-year career? Defense is one of Bryant’s strengths, so it pays to listen to him give tips on guarding your opponent. At the 2010 World Basketball Festival in New York, Bryant grabbed the microphone and instructed about 40 young players on how to properly execute defensive slides during a clinic at Rucker Park.
Here are three tips he wants young basketball players to remember:
When watching the young players do defensive slides, Bryant noticed several of them leaning their torso in the direction they were moving.
“When you’re doing defensive slides and start leaning,” Bryant said, “now when your man changes direction, it takes too much time for you (to change direction) and slide.”
If you keep your torso centered while you’re moving your feet, you’re ready to go either direction your opponent might take you.
“Everybody needs to think about staying in the middle,” Bryant said. “Your top part shouldn’t be moving.”
Bryant told the story of playing summer basketball in the Philadelphia area. He would often get top defenders guarding him, yet some of them would do their defensive slides with their arms still and down below their waist.
“They thought it looked cool,” Bryant said. “It wasn’t cool when I was shooting the ball in their face.”
Bryant has become a lockdown defender in part because he never lets his opponent get comfortable. One of the best ways to do that is to keep good lower-body form when sliding, but also make sure your hands are a nuisance to the ball-handler.
“You have to keep your hands active, all the time,” Bryant said. “Up, down, side to side, jabbing at the ball.”
Many young players, when doing defensive slides, don’t have their feet wide enough apart, so they don’t get as low as they should.
“If you keep your feet further apart, you have a wider base so your man can’t change direction,” Bryant said. “I keep my wide base, and if you change direction, I’m still with you.”
Widening your base when doing defensive slides might be a little uncomfortable at first, but it is the best way to play lockdown defense.
Just ask Kobe Bryant–one of the best in the world at it.
“Keep your feet really wide apart,” Bryant insists, “even as you stride.”