Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest NBA players of all time. Not just because of his amazing shot, iconic jumper, or undeniable talent, but because of his versatility. He was a flashy star who had the IQ and athletic ability to take on different roles from time to time.
This guide takes a deep dive into the positions Kobe played (shooting guard, small forward) during his time in the NBA, and looks at how he managed to execute each one. It’s not simply that he could take over different positions, it’s that he excelled no matter where he lined up.
A New Fluidity
Today’s NBA is not like it used to be. Where offenses once had a set player at every position, today’s coaches prefer a much more flexible rotation. Rather than depend on a single point guard or center, they like to mix it up. That blends the lines more than it has in the past.
During the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, players did one thing well. They either shot outside, knew how to post up, created space, used their body, or primarily passed. In today’s game, most top players are so athletic that they can do a little bit of everything.
Kobe had that as well, he just had it at a different time.
Breaking the Mold
Bryant came into the league during the late 90’s. As with any high draft pick during that decade, he embodied a single role. He started as a shooting guard, which is what he played in high school, and he immediately excelled.
He had the agility, length, and height to score almost at will. Not only could he drive by bigger defenders, but he had the innate ability to go up and score over much smaller ones too. That created a lot of mismatches the Lakers took advantage of in just about every game.
However, it quickly became apparent that Kobe could use his size and strength much more effectively than other shooting guards. Where most at his position around the league settled for jumpers or fadeaways, Kobe didn’t mind getting into bigger defenders and driving to the rim.
That allowed him to freely switch between shooting guard and small forward depending on what the team needed. Not only did he have the innate ability to play both, but his basketball-focused mind allowed him to slide right into the offense without missing a beat.
Getting The Point
Though he was never a point guard, it’s important to note that Kobe could (and did) bring the ball up the court every now and then. He didn’t do it in a set rotation, nor was it something the Lakers were ever looking for, but he could take over at the point in key situations.
Typically, the Lakers would run such sets when they needed to get points at the end of the game. Kobe was one of the most clutch players of all time. By having him at the top of the key, it created a scenario almost no team could match.
They had to pick their poison. Either match a smaller player on Kobe and risk him pulling up for a key or game-winning shot, or press him and risk him finding a critical pass. He was excellent at reading the court, which made him extremely deadly even when taking over the offense.
Kobe was a generational talent, and one of the purest scorers of all time. That, combined with his incredible basketball IQ, allowed him to play three different positions. He was mainly a shooting guard, but didn’t mind wearing different hats. That’s the mark of a true great.