An Englishman’s Ode to Kobe

(AFP/Getty Images)
I thought I’d write a few words about how, even though I never realised, Kobe Bryant got me into basketball.

Kobe Bryant sounds weird. It was always just Kobe.

Kobe got me into basketball and the NBA.

I remember playing as Kobe on NBA 2K9. I had no previous interest in basketball, or really knew anything about it – but I played a demo, enjoyed it, and bought the game. At 16 it got me interested in the sport, but I eventually found out that in England it was always kind of hard to watch the NBA. In-between the time difference, school, and University, watching games was near impossible. I’m not going to go into how I managed to end up watching games, but the 2010 Finals were the first time I truly followed the NBA.

Kobe was MVP of those finals when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 4 games to 3. I didn’t really know what I was watching to be perfectly honest, but I bloody loved it. Kobe got buckets in those finals too:

  • Game 1 – 30
  • Game 2 – 21
  • Game 3 – 29
  • Game 4 – 33
  • Game 5 – 38
  • Game 6 – 26
  • Game 7 – 23

He averaged almost 30, but, I just remember it captivating me – and Kobe was the star of the show. Even when Ray Allen was going off for all those threes in Game 2, I just vividly remember (and it might not even have been in that game, but that’s not the point) Kobe sticking his hand right in front of Allen’s face, daring him to shoot. I was thinking: “What on earth is that?” The notion of it was just so weird to me, because I was so new to the game. That, alongside him stood on the scorers table, are what I remember from those finals.

I was hooked. Kobe was considered the best in the first series I’d ever watched. The man would do whatever it took to win, and I saw it for all of those 7 games.

Mamba Mentality.

Now I’d like to take you to the 2012 Olympics.

This was really the first time I was able to watch basketball at a reasonable time (I know, woe is me). I knew who the players were. I knew LeBron, I knew KD, I knew Chris Paul, and of course I knew Kobe. I remember him and LeBron from those Olympics. Not much of a story here, but Kobe’s what I remember.

People always talk about how the 2008 Olympics were his magnum opus.

They went to him down the stretch. But I didn’t watch that. I remember them doubling Pau Gasol and they still couldn’t stop him, and I thought: “Woah boy, here comes Kobe time!” He had some big shots in 2012, a big offensive rebound and put back, but no real take over. Not knocking him, the game didn’t need that.

But the point is that’s what you expected from Kobe. You expected him to take over. You expected him to do whatever it took to win.

Mamba Mentality.

The man tore his achilles tendon literally CARRYING his team into the playoffs. The Lakers (who were supposed to be a ‘Super Team’ that season with him, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol) were average heading to the 2013 playoffs, but Kobe became more of a passer, and they won games. They lost in the first round, but that’s neither here nor there – no Kobe. That season I remember so vividly. I remember him tweeting about taking the ball into the post (or something like that) really aggressively because that’s how he saw the Lakers winning the series.

He did whatever it took to win.

Mamba Mentality.

I’m not here to talk about his famous work ethic, the fact he has 2 numbers retired at The Staples Centre, or he scored 81 in a game against the Raptors. I’m not here to mention his rings, his MVP, or his All-Star appearances. I don’t really know what I’m here to talk about.

I just wanted to say thank you to Kobe. He got me into Basketball, and I never even knew it. He was there when I grew an interest in it, and helped turn an interest into love. He made it fun to watch. He was fun to watch. He’s the reason I’m here, trying to write about the NBA. He started it all.

I never really thought about it until last night.

Thank you Kobe.

Mamba Mentality.

All info from Basketball Reference and my Kobe reflecting memory.

Success and Andy Reid

(AP)
Regardless of how Reid is respected around the NFL without a championship, and with Super Bowl LIV around the corner, I want people to know – he’s already successful.

Andy Reid is 7th in NFL history for the most wins. He has taken two different teams to the Super Bowl (and if you know the outcome of the upcoming one let me know, I’ve got my eyes on 12/1 and 16/1 odds for Kelce or Kittle to be the game’s MVP but that’s neither here nor there), been to seven Conference Championship games, and won nine division titles – in twenty years as a head coach.

Reid will more than likely move up to sixth on the list next season (touch wood) being only six wins behind Paul Brown with 207. But the six coaches above him have a combined 29 NFL/Super Bowl titles between them. They’re all, besides Belichick, Hall of Famers (as I think Reid should be) but the only other coach without a ring and over 200 wins isn’t in Canton.

The criticism has been around that he “can’t win the big one”, which, to be fair, is at least true? I mean, he’s not won the big one, he doesn’t have a Super Bowl. He’s got a decent chance to do it this year, that Mahomes dude is pretty good. His arm strength reminds me of that episode of Samurai Jack when he complains that his sword isn’t strong enough – but actually it’s his arm. So he gets kind of like a bionic sleeve to make his arm strong, which leads to him chopping through stuff like a madness as his arm’s dead strong. That’s Mahomes. Futuristic weaponry for a right arm.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes, Mr. Reid.

I’ve already listed some accomplishments, but I want you to all know – none of this Super Bowl malarky matters. I believe it’s different for coaches. As Thierry Henry said in a recent interview:

What is success? I had some coaches who I won nothing with, but they made me a better player. That is success.

I’d like to start with two quarterbacks taken first overall in their respective drafts – Michael Vick and Alex Smith. Both played under Reid, Vick in Philadelphia and Smith in Kansas City.

In 2006 with Atlanta, Vick rushed for 1,039 yards, a then record for a quarterback, averaging 64.9 yards a game on the ground. He passed for 2,474 (averaging 154.6 yards a game), which is the second best in his time at Atlanta. But was I wanted to point out, is that when he got to the Eagles, his passing yards exploded. In 2010 and 2011 he threw for 3,018 yards (averaging 251.5) and 3,303 yards (averaging 254.1) respectively, whilst still running for 676 yards in 2010 (averaging 56.3) and 589 in 2011 (averaging 45.3). His rushing went down a little as you can see. Was that age? The system? I’m not sure, but, it was clearly still an important part of Reid’s offense at that time.

No one can deny that 2006 season for Vick was exciting as hell, but, Reid’s system made his passing insane. All of these below stats were his best – and they were all in Philly.

  • Completion Percentage – 62.6%
  • Passing Touchdowns – 21
  • Passing Yards in a Season – 3,303
  • Interception Percentage – 1.6% (except in Pittsburgh, but he only played a few games and it’s .1% better)
  • Yards Gained per Pass Attempt – 8.1

Reid had him throwing bombs too, because Vick had a cannon. That Eagle’s offense also passed what I’ve heard Bill Simmons call the “Eye Test” – they did some cool stuff (see the Monday Night Massacre) nothing revolutionary, but it was fun. Actually, here’s kind of what I mean, watch the first play on this – the roll to the left, then the deep throw. Cracking stuff.

Vick was always a good player though, and had success before he played for Andy Reid. Alex Smith did too, but, I feel what Reid did with him is fantastic.

Smith’s struggles in his first few seasons with San Francisco are well documented, but I want to look at his 2011 season first, that was under Jim Harbaugh. In his best season as a 49er, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, threw the second most touchdowns (and his career high was only one more than the 17 he threw in 2011) and had his best Quarterback Rating by far (90.7). Then Kaepernick took over and the 49ers went somewhere else, and Smith was traded to Kansas City, for Andy Reid’s first season with the Chiefs.

In his five years in Kansas City, Smith was a Pro Bowler for three of them (the only times in his career so far) and threw for over 3,000 yards in every single one of them. He attempted more passes per season in KC than he ever did in San Fran, and threw for over 20 Touchdowns for the first times in his career too, and only had a Quarterback Rating under 90.7 once (and that was 89.1) . I’m not too sure where I’m going with this, except to say that Reid worked his magic again, and turned Smith into more than the game manager he was in San Francisco. His 2017 season was the best of his career by far (and was under Reid) – 4,042 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, and a Quarterback Rating of 104.7. He gained almost 270 yards of offense a game that season, 54 more than his most in San Francisco, and when you think about average starting positions on offense – that’s points baby!

There’s no doubt that Reid seems to like pace in his systems, from Jackson for the Eagles to Hill for the Chiefs, and that could be why these quarterbacks seem to progress so much. Smith’s longest career passes were all under Reid.

You see that system with Mahomes too, who has undoubtedly flourished under Reid. Yes the man has talent, but the reservations people seemed to have when drafting him because of the Air Raid system he played under at Texas Tech (with its focus on passing) let him slide in the draft to Kansas City. Surely that focus on passing is what helped him stand out under an offensive minded Head Coach, throwing for 50 (!!!) Touchdowns in his first (!!!) season as a starter. Maybe the success with Mahomes comes from the regular comparisons to Brett Favre, who he was the Quarterback Coach for in Green Bay from 1997 to 1998.

Reid improves Quarterbacks, there’s no denying this. That is good coaching. Making players better is success, as Thierry says.

Reid’s coaching tree is pretty impressive as well. He has employed Sean McDermott, Matt Nagy, Ron Rivera, Doug Pederson and John Harbaugh. Rivera and Nagy both have Coach of the Year awards, and Perderson and Harbaugh both have Super Bowl rings.

Maybe it’s cruel that his assistants have championships before him, but they’ve not have Reid’s success. 20 years in the NFL, improving players, winning games. I’m sure you all saw the stat that only he and Bill Belichick are the only coaches to beat every NFL team twice. I’m not claiming to be the first person to praise Andy Reid’s handling of Quarterbacks, I just wanted to express my feelings.

Andy’s had success, now he just needs a ring.

All information taken from somewhere not stated is from NFL.com, Pro Football Reference and Max Kellerman’s vocal cords.