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Kobe Bryant's surpassing Hakeem Olajuwon on NBA's all-time scoring list brings focus on his continual study of the game

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It would have been fitting had Kobe Bryant surpassed Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list in the Lakers' 100-95 loss Friday to the Sacramento Kings with a signature post-up move, a fitting symbolic tribute to the work the two put in two summers ago to enhance Bryant's post game.

Instead, Bryant surpassed Olajuwon's 26,946 career points with a breakaway dunk with 3:29 remaining, but perhaps the rest of Bryant's 38-point performance on 14 of 27 shooting properly showcased how his ability to score in numerous ways reveals his hunger in mastering all the facets that go into scoring. His performance featured a wide-range approach on how to score, with Hoopdata revealing he went 2-of-2 at the rim, 3-of-7 from shots within 10 feet, 4-of-6 from attempts within 10-15 feet, 2-of-4 from jumpers within 16-23 feet and a 2-of-8 mark from three-point range.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson downplayed the influence Olajuwon had on Bryant with his postwork, saying Bryant's always been an effective post player and adding a dig at The Dream.

"Hakeem had this move that bordered on a walk or travel," Jackson said. "You guys always laugh at that stuff. [Kevin] McHale had that one too and it was very hard to duplicate that. It was a shoulder-shrug, shake and bake thing that he had and he came back in the opposite. He was so quick at it. Kobe has good post up moves. I'm sure he learned some about posting up, but he couldn't imitate Olajuwon's move."

"It's not so much important to what degree Olajuwon influenced Bryant. It's that it's part of an ongoing effort in continuously finding new wrinkles to help him remain an offensive force. That's revealed in the various ways Bryant has gotten on the scoreboard in the past six seasons. According to Synergy, most of Bryant’s offense during that stretch came in isolation plays, ranging from 29.4% to 38%. But this season, Bryant's areas of scoring came in isolation (29.4%), post-ups (16.3%), pick-and-rolls (15.1%) and transition baskets (9.9%). Considering the jump from October, November, December and January in points per game (24, 27.2, 23.7, 23.7) and field-goal percentage (45.45%, 42.37%, 47.25%, 49.78), it also shows Bryant's increased his level of efficiency. That's why it's not surprising that Bryant's work with Olajuwon reflected both players' appreciation for fine-tuning their craft.

"It's always the detail that separates the great players from the greatest players," Bryant said. "It's no different with Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], Michael [Jordan] and the others, it's the attention to detail that separates those guys."

It's also something that separates Bryant because that attention to detail goes beyond his post-work with Olajuwon, which the Black Mamba said, "I learned a great deal obviously from him in the post game, recognizing double teams and how to deal with those." Nursing an avulsion fracture in his right index finger and a sprained right knee for most of last season, Bryant's shot understandably proved more difficult. The effort to overcome that obstacle involved Bryant simply grinding it out and playing through it. But it also entailed fine-tuning his shooting approach to maximize efficiency.

"When his index finger had an avulsion fracture on it, we just transferred more of the pressure on his release to his middle finger," Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person said. "It takes him some reminding and some thought process on his part to remind himself [he] can't shoot the ball the same way and that [he has] to put more pressure on [the] middle finger and ... ring finger. But it also helped me correct some things in his shot. When his right knee was hurting at the time, we had him put more pressure on the left side of his body, which he understood some of the things I was trying to do. Some of the shots he couldn't orchestrate, but he knew his spots and where he needed to get to in order to make baskets."

Should Bryant maintain his season-average of 25 points per game, Bryant (26,972) would move to sixth place by the end of the season, surpassing both Moses Malone (27,409) and Elvin Hayes (27,313). With Bryant nearing closer and closer to toward the tail end of his career (his contract ends after the 2013-2014 season), it'll become necessary in remaining open to finding nuances to elevate that skillset. It's surely a role Bryant will be eager to take.

"It's just fun for me," Bryant said. "I enjoy what I do. So you love what you do, you're constantly looking for ways to do it better or do it different. I just love the game so I'm constantly around it."

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant soars to the hoop for a breakaway dunk against the Sacramento Kings for his 20th and 21st points of the first half Friday night, when he passed Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

 
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LRob,

yikes, that was a very tasty cut, I had never heard of him. Very soulful (no comment on Franks "look" though). Now I have to go look up who the guitar player was, I'm guessing Jimmy Ponder or Cornell D., someone like that.

Great article MM,

It's always fascinating to hear the greats talk about all the work and sacrifices they've made because they are first a fan of a game they love. Being a little older myself, I wax nostalgic when I think that the old NBA pretty much ends when Kobe, Shaq, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan retire. Of these four, Kobe most exemplifies the old guard. The young players are quick and athletic, but I love the way Magic, Dr. J, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kareem, Hakeem made the game look like poetry in motion. How they used their footwork or their patent shot, passing and mental preparation to defeat their opponent. The NBA today doesn't look much different than a college game and that's unfortunate. Unless things change and there are more players like Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and D-Will, my NBA watching days will come to a close when the last of the old guard retires.

Thanks Man-Up. That's the always thing I found about Kobe. It's cliche. But it's fun to see players who take a satisfaction in finding another nugget or aspect that helps their game

good article Mark -- we just put one up earlier about whether or not Kobe would be able to pass Cap. Would love your thoughts..

http://chasing23.com/2011/01/can-kobe-become-the-nbas-all-time-leading-scorer/

Does anyone recall what was happening to the NBA prior to Byrd and Magic's appearance? It was on a fairly steady decline and it took the quality the Byrd and Magic brought into the league to revive it to the peak it hit during the 90's and early new century. We are going to see the same thing happen again when the last of the 90s draft retire. The NBA is going to become, for a time, an individualcentric (just made that one up) game that is going to lose fans until a couple students of the game come out of college (it won't be a high school draftee because Kobe was the last one that really respected the real game) and restore order.

This is just my opinion and not necessarily the views of the Laker Blog, LA Times, United Nations, or the National Pterodactyl Refuge and Wild Turkey Sanctuary.

JR

And there are people out there who thinks Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum are deserving to be All-Stars?

All-Stars don't get PUNKED by rookie (Cousin), journeyman (Dalembert and Landry) in that embarassing manner.

On their own home court no less.

All-Stars at least take pride in their professionalism to exert the effort.

All-Stars don't MAIL IT IN whenever they feel like taking a day off.

All-Stars don't like to be LOSERS!

I have a suggestion for Lakers coaching staff: why not hang a poster of Blake Griffin in the middle of the Lakers locker room.

That will serve as a good reminder what INTENSITY and EFFORT is all about -especially to the girlish Lakers big men.

@Psycorp - Dude, Harsh, Cold and quite Accurate! You might be on to something for motivation.

JR

For those looking forward to this Sunday match up vs Boston:

FORGET ABOUT IT ALREADY!

Expect another Christmas Day MASSACRE people. It's going to be a HUGE disappointment again. It's going to be another EMBARASSMENT.

Just like the drubbing against the Miami Heat all over again! DEJA VU!

Oh no it's not going to be because the Celtics are a better team. Just like the Miami Heat is not a better team than Lakers.

It's just that it's just a regular season game and the Lakers DO NOT CARE enough to WIN regular season game.

If there is anything Lakers fans can count on it is that they will NOT play hard enough to win a regular season game.

If Gasol, Odom and Bynum can be PUNKED by the likes of Cousin, Dalembert and Landry ask yourselves what chance will they have against the REAL TOUGH HOMBRES of Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett and Glen Baby Davis?

Yeah right!

PS: Mr. Mark Medina you have my permission to post this post of mine in the entrance to the Laker locker room for the players to see! Maybe, just maybe it will somehow miraculously motivate them to play DEFENSE against the Celts this Sunday.

I really wonder if anyone really knows what kind of a MAJOR adjustment it is to have banged-up fingers and still play with greatness that Kobe plays? I doubt it. I can't recall many Star players that continued to perform well with injuries, on and on and on, like KB24!

Evidently someone on those "D" tough Suns must have "punked" those Celtics Bigs last night, huh?

Yeah, it seems to me like the Celts got knocked off by those Smurfs in Phoenix.

Ga-Softy and Artest for:

Loul Deng and Noah
David West and Ariza
Lopez and Harris


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