Kobe Bryant stirred up some controversy with his remarks last night regarding AAU basketball and its ineffectiveness in teaching kids the proper way to play the game.
The 18-time NBA All Star had the following to say about the country’s largest amateur sports organization:
“I hate it because it doesn’t teach our players how to play the right way, how to think the game, how to play in combinations of threes. I think everything is a reward system. I think the coaches who are teaching the game are getting rewarded in one fashion or another. It’s just a showcase. I think it’s absolutely horrible for the game…I think we’re doing a tremendous disservice to our young basketball players right now. That’s something that definitely needs to be fixed and it’s going to definitely be one of the things that I focus on.”
There are certainly truthful components of his remarks that can apply to AAU ball in Texas. I grew up playing in countless AAU tournaments and have covered many more after I graduated high school, so I can relate to a lot of what Bryant is talking about. However, in my experience I have not discovered select basketball to be completely and inherently evil as the Laker great believes.
The truth in Kobe’s comments:
Fundamentals are scarce in AAU tournaments. More often than not, it is a game of athleticism rather than skill. Teams with elite athletes run a full-court press, generate a turnover, hit a layup, and repeat from beginning. No one is really developing their offensive skills aside from layups and dunks in that scenario. Like Bryant said, it is often a showcase or a dunk contest. Even when teams do get into a half court set, we see more 1-on-1 isolation matchups than we do motion offenses, backdoor cuts or off-ball screens. This is not ideal in creating a college-like experience for the kids, and because of that, I agree with Bryant.
The inaccuracy in Kobe’s comments:
In reality, it’s a case-by-case basis. Yes, there are programs who just put out the best athletes and let them play pick-up ball, but there also are coaches who emphasize the importance of building fundamental skills. Their practices are not just hour-long scrimmages, instead there is a focus on drills sharpening the skills that kids may find boring but ultimately rewarding. In games, you see a more elaborate level of teamwork and discipline as opposed to a circus filled with people trying to replicate moves they saw in an Allen Iverson highlight reel. These are the coaches and organizations we need to rely on to teach our kids the proper way to play the game, and they do exist in Texas. They may be hard to find, but they exist.
Follow Zach DiSchiano on Twitter for more news on Texas basketball players and teams at @zachdischiano. Be sure to follow Texas Top 100 on Instagram at @texastop100.