Kobe Bryant is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history. He is a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame, a five-time champion, and a former MVP. He was 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 for 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 the main shots in his repertoire. Kobe Bryant studied Michael Jordan, who also perfected a post fadeaway. One of the key factors that made Bryant’s fadeaway unique is the fact that he could fadeaway over each shoulder, and could 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 compared to most other 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 was his post-up and shoulder bump. Right before taking the fadeaway, Bryant would post up his defender. This means he put one shoulder into them while dribbling the ball with the opposite arm. This forced 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 was his follow-through. Although this is not particularly unique to jump shots, Bryant did have one of the most pronounced follow-throughs in NBA history. He would snap his wrist hard, allowing for the ball to rotate with a backspin, which scientifically gives the ball a better chance of going into the hoop.
A very distinguishable feature of Kobe’s fadeaway was his leg kick. The purpose of kicking the leg out during a fadeaway was twofold. First, it provided extra space for the defender. Second, it helped Bryant keep his balance throughout the shooting motions. 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 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 4 a.m. 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 8 a.m. 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.