Kobe before he could buy cigarettes

25 06 2009

I was watching old YouTube videos of various Lakers game-winning shots, which I do at an unhealthy rate, when I stumbled across one which I’ve never seen: Kobe’s alleged first pro game with the Lakers. I’m not talking regular season. I’m not even talking practice! I’m talking NBA summer league ball. (You’ll notice him as the bald-headed dude in the gold jersey rocking #32. Also apparent in the video is Young Derek Fisher!)

The most arcane of all NBA events, the summer league has long been a refuge for the babies of the league to sharpen their skills before October training camps. I couldn’t find exactly what year the NBA began the league, but Kobe’s video below is obviously from ’96. And look at how raw Young Kobe is!

It’s incredibly surreal to watch him 13 years ago, when I was half my age (!) and the Internet was something you accessed by going to the local mall. (Yes, I would actually go to the old Woodland Hills mall in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley to dial up nba.com.)

What fascinates me so much about this video is how he was already showing the basis for the amazing all-around offensive game he has today. Check out his first few shots — he’s got the free-throw line extended jumper, that incredible baseline turnaround that he has perfected and, of course, his ability to snake his way through an interior defense to get off a seemingly impossible shot attempt. You’ll also notice his propensity to get to the free throw line. It’s amazing to see how he already had the fundamental offensive tools built into his game. He even shows one of his famous up-and-under moves. Kobe definitely looked rough around the edges, but remember that he was 17 in this game!

You might also notice how flat his shot release looks, especially on free throws. He shoots the ball from a higher release point now, probably due to increased arm and shoulder strength and quite a bit of big league coaching. Anyway, I’ll end this so you can just watch Very Young Kobe.

(Okay, so I couldn’t figure out a way to get this particular video embedded into a blog post, since there’s no embed option. Maybe I’m technologically warped, but the best I figured to do was to link the video. Just click on the below link once.)

Young Kobe in his first NBA game

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One response

25 06 2009
apollocreed

Damn – he still had the bald head! Back before the mini-fro!

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