Kobe Bryant’s “Canvas” films for ESPN have quickly become must-watch affairs. It’s fairly normal for athletes to go into in-studio analysis for television networks like ESPN after they retire, but the way Bryant has used his oft-stated love for story-telling to create unique short films about why he feels certain players or teams have had success have been fascinating (as has his use of a purple snake puppet).
Bryant’s latest breakdown featured the retired superstar explaining the Golden State Warriors’ success, and the reason he appreciates them may surprise his most ardent critics.
“84 assists on 135 field goals through three games. Every team wants to play team ball, but lets look at how Golden State does it,” Bryant says as he begins his voiceover. “What do you notice Draymond doing upon receiving the ball? Is he looking to make a play for himself, or is he looking to make a play for someone else?”
Bryant lauding ball movement might seem antithetical to those that ripped him throughout his career for his shoot-first tendencies, but it really shouldn’t be a shock that he appreciates winning basketball in all of it’s forms.
“The way Golden State plays is rare. The players go into attack mode when they are off the ball, not on the ball,” Bryant said. “They don't force you to defend 1v1, they force you to defend 3v3. They force you to cover split actions, rip actions, hand-off actions, curl actions, slice actions, just to name a few.”
Even if the scheme isn’t the triangle Bryant won five titles playing in under Phil Jackson, the improvisational, read-and-react nature with which Golden State has run roughshod over the league this year is somewhat peak-triangle-esque. And when the offense has no idea what comes next until it happens, it makes the defense’s job to predict it nearly impossible.
“Playing this style takes advantage of the basic human challenge of communication. Can you have the presence of mind of who was setting the screen? Have the presence of mind to know who was coming off the screen? Have the presence of mind to communicate the proper strategy to your teammate involved in the screen?” Bryant said. “And have the presence of mind to communicate crystal clearly while 20,000 fans scream at the top of their lungs... And do it in a split second.”
Most teams don’t, which is why they make mistakes, and those mistakes allow the Warriors to step on the throats of their suddenly-infighting opponents with a smile.
And whether it comes through ball movement or another mid-post fadeaway, isn’t watching an opponent unravel all Bryant ever really wanted out of basketball anyway?
“These mistakes are built on lack of communication. Lack of communication creates division. Division breaks teams apart,” Bryant said, seemingly gleefully highlighting a scene of LaMarcus Aldridge losing his temper. “A team apart can't play as one. If you can't play as one, your season is done. Long live the Golden Democracy.”
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.