Kobe In Depth: How The Black Mamba Works
First off, let's dispose of general ideas on what a Kobe Bryant basketball workout looks like according to videos and articles online:
1. Two Thousand Jumpers - Yes, we know that he takes countless jump shot routines until he reaches a certain number; and it seems like he wants to make more successful repetitions than the average player.
2. Ball-handling drills - Of course, this part of the workout is quite obvious not just by the snippets on videos online but by the way he conducts his camp on tour.
3. Mamba's signature moves - Be it Kobe's version of the dream shake mixed with a Jordan-esque fade-away jumper, or the Kobe pull-up shot in transition, or the variations coming from the triple-threat stance - all these we expect to see in a Kobe Bryant workout. We're not sure though of just how much he practices the moves, but you're sure to see from the videos online that he does countless repetitions of the patented fade-away.
4. Athletics and Conditioning - Of course, Kobe isn't an exception to this. You'd expect this from every pro athlete. Kobe probably had way more of the conditioning part of his training than most players at the end of his career since he was recovering from the torn Achilles.
Let's Go Deep.
As you may have come across Kobe's 'Muse Cage Productions' you'd definitely notice just how much he appreciates the little details in the game of basketball. So now, to do him a little bit of justice, we go into the little details of his workouts.
Let's start by thinking about what he does when he gets up in the morning and reaches the gym at four A.M. Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of having an interview with Mamba, so the best we can do is ask ourselves what he most likely does when he reaches the gym at that crazy early time. First, he stretches, start of with basic conditioning drills and graduate into basic dribbling drills. Will he then take his first jump shot of the day after that?
A twenty minute workout of Steve Nash online shows how a player usually starts shooting short shots and gradually moves farther from the rim:
Just how many repetitions does it take for one person to say to himself, 'Hey I think I'm pretty good. I think I'm unstoppable'? Kobe may have said it's four hundred successful ones, at one point, but is there really a magic number to this?
And it's not as simple as piling up repetitions - it's making sure that every repetition is one with just the right amount of focus and attention to detail - making sure that it is a quality repetition. So the way I see it, Kobe's not just simply counting the number of times the ball passes through the inside of the net and down, but also he's taking note of little things like:
1. Is the thumb on my shooting hand at the right place? Is it touching the ball with the right amount of force? Is the surface of my shooting thumb at the right texture - is it too dry, is it too wet?
2. Is the thumb on my non-shooting hand at the right place? Is it touching the ball with the right amount of force? Is the surface of my non-shooting thumb at the right texture - is it too dry, is it too wet?
3. Repeat Questions 1-2 for all fingers of your hands.
4. Am I Releasing the ball with too much force coming from my arms? Am I utilizing the the right amount of force from my legs?
5. Is the position of my head - is the angle, of my head relative to the ball and relative to the rim correct, so as to be at my most balanced position?
6. And so on.
It can get pretty obsessive, on how much one pays attention to a very simple mechanical act of shooting a jump shot. And you might wonder, hey, does Kobe really ask himself all such questions every time he makes one repetition? The answer to that is YES and NO.
Yes, because to be able to make one successful repetition, you either have to be lucky or you did all the right things to be successful.
No, because he doesn't need to ask these questions every time he does one rep - it's just that the act has become second nature and he knows that when the ball goes in, it's not coincidence but it's because there's a check mark on all the questions he needs to ask himself if he did a good rep or not.
Muscle memory? Nope - they say that this concept is inaccurate. It's the power of synapses that get the job done (but more on this in another article).
Let's go a tiny bit deeper...
What happens when Kobe pauses for a short break? Does he:
1. Imagine more repetitions of the jump shot routine?
2. Think about the next move he wants to practice?
3. Try inventing a new move in his head and try it out next?
4. Just simply go meta and think about some deep philosophical stuff?
How does Kobe practice for last-second shots? Does he:
1. Use the practice gym's shot clock to simulate?
2. Does he wear a timer around his body or limbs that sends a signal just before he needs to take the shot?
3. Does he watch a lot of basketball film of him or Jordan taking the last shot and see what he can take from that?
4. Does he simply never practice last second shots?
How does he practice footwork? Does he:
1. Regularly do shadow basketball - practicing moves on the court, as Shaq said it, without a basketball?
2. Book multiple sessions with the Dream himself, Hakeem Olajuwon, and do his drills?
3. Simply do more and more footwork repetitions of his signature moves and polish them to perfection?
We may never know the exact answers to these questions, but what we do know is that the breaks don't seem to last that long. Kobe said in a TED talk in Shanghai that he normally works out four times a day or a total of eight hours a day and because of this habit, "the separation between you and your peers becomes larger, and larger and larger."
The bottom line seems to be in a Kobe workout is that redundancy is the key to mastery. According to Kobe, the 'confidence comes from preparation', and this is one anecdote we can always apply in everything we do.
The Conclusion... For Now.
This article won't be enough to dive the deep waters of Kobe's workout, and as we continue to unearth stories of him from the people who were around him, and stories coming from him(since he's retired and pretty much goes around giving interviews), we will dive deeper into how the mamba works. A short, incomplete conclusion for now would be, that The Mamba doesn't settle for getting things right and being happy about it. The Mamba goes for multiple repetitions of getting something right to the point of making it so easy that it feels meaningless.
This is what gives a person confidence in executing during pressure situations - knowing that something comes so easy and knowing that you've done it a countless amount of times, that the act of doing it during crunch time simply becomes one more rep. Maybe that's how The Mamba works.