What Made Kobe Bryant's Fadeaway Shot Unique?
Kobe Bryant is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history. He is a member of the hall of fame, a five time champion, and a former MVP. He is known as one of the best scorers, if not the best scorer in NBA history. His most famous and successful shot was his turnaround fadeaway. A fadeaway is a two point shot, often taken from a post-up position, where a player moves away from the basket while shooting, creating space from the defender. Keep reading to learn what made Kobe Bryant’s fadeaway shot so unstoppable.
How Did Kobe Perfect the Fadeaway?
Kobe Bryant perfected the fadeaway and made it one of his main shots in his repertoire. Kobe Bryant studied Michael Jordan, who also perfected a post fadeaway. One of the key factors that makes Bryant’s fadeaway unique is the fact that he can fadeaway over each shoulder, and can shoot his fadeaway from anywhere on the floor.
Location on the Court
Most of Bryant’s fadeaways came inside the three point arc and near the elbow or baseline. The elbow is the area on the court where the free throw line meets the lane. The baseline runs underneath the basket for the width of the court, and shooting close to it provides a difficult angle for some players. Kobe’s shot was unique from most players’ fadeaways because many fadeaways are attempted by larger players who take them inside the paint, or very close to the basket.
Post Up Fadeaway
Another key to Kobe Bryant's fadeaway is his post up and shoulder bump. Right before taking the fadeaway, Bryant posts up his defender. This means he puts one shoulder into them while dribbling the ball with the opposite arm. This forces the defender to take a step back and brace themselves, creating more space for the fadeaway. What made Bryant’s fadeaway so unique is that he could fade away from either shoulder. He could either put his shoulder into his defender and just fade back, or put his shoulder into the defender and spin towards the hand with the ball to shoot.
Another significant part of Kobe Bryant’s fadeaway is his follow through. Although this is not particularly unique to jumpshots, Bryant does have one of the most pronounced follow throughs in NBA history. He snaps his wrist hard, allowing for the ball to rotate with backspin which scientifically gives the ball a better chance of going into the hoop.
A very distinguishable feature of Kobe’s fadeaway is his leg kick. The purpose of kicking his leg out during a fadeaway is twofold. First, it provides extra space from the defender. Second, it helps him keep his balance throughout the shooting motions. In fact, Kobe once mentioned in an interview that his inspiration for kicking his leg out on fadeaways was a cheetah. He made the comparison to how a cheetah’s tail sticks out and helps the predator balance when running at high speeds and hunting prey.
Perhaps the most well-documented but differentiating part of Kobe’s game was his work ethic. This is often referred to as having the “Mamba Mentality.” Kobe frequently started workouts at 4AM, and would complete four or more workouts throughout the day to improve his game. He stated that this gave him an advantage over most of his competitors, as they wouldn’t start practicing until 8AM or later, giving him four more hours to hone his skills. Although this doesn’t relate specifically to his fadeaway mechanics, it allowed him more time to form a consistent and deadly fadeaway that opponents feared.
What made Kobe’s fadeaway jump shot unstoppable?
Kobe Bryant’s fadeaway jump shot was so unstoppable because of the amount of space he was able to generate as well as his ability to shoot over each shoulder. Bryant generated this space by bumping the defender with his shoulder and kicking his leg. Then he either faded away directly or spun to fade away over his shoulder. Kobe’s work ethic and dedication to perfecting his skills led to a consistent fadeaway that most players couldn’t stop.