Wednesday , Jan , 21 , 2009 Oly Sandor

Controlling flow: How Kobe Bryant and LeBron James became even greater

Controlling flow is subtle. Making the extra pass or patiently serving as a decoy doesn’t necessarily show up on the box sheet. And since it’s not a tangible statistic, many good players can’t or won’t do it. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, today’s top players, have improved at controlling flow. Rather than just score, they are now opting to manage tempo. Hard as it is to imagine, they have become even better …


Controlling flow: How Kobe Bryant and LeBron James became even greaterA player becomes truly great when they can dominate without shooting. Instead of getting-theirs, they control flow and tempo with other aspects of their game.

During The Golden Era, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson would often stop shooting, draw extra defenders, and kick, while Michael Jordan locked-up the opposition’s best perimeter player and ran Chicago’s triple-post system from the elbow.

Controlling flow is subtle. Making the extra pass or patiently serving as a decoy doesn’t necessarily show up on the box sheet. And since it’s not a tangible statistic, many good players can’t or won’t do it.

Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, today’s top players, have improved at controlling flow. Rather than just score, they are now opting to manage tempo. Hard as it is to imagine, they have become even better.

Something clicked with Bryant. It had to. From 2004-2007, the Lakers didn’t advance past the first round of the playoffs. ‘The Black Mamba’ show had to evolve or just change. Last season, Bryant began facilitating. Like Jordan in his thirties, he toned-down his scoring and matured. His teammates responded. And, after acquiring Pau Gasol mid-season, the Lakers became contenders and advanced to the NBA Finals.

The Team USA experience had an impact. With many offensive players, Bryant became a lockdown defender, passer, and scorer. As one of Stars and Stripes’ elder statesmen, he set an example with his work ethic.

James is choosing to score less. Rather than directly imposing his will on the game, the three-man is letting Mo Williams, Delonte West, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (before his injury) get involved. Cleveland’s superstar has also become an elite defender. In the past, James got by on athleticism. This season, he wants to guard, and is often stopping, the other team’s best player. Look for James to emerge as the Cavaliers’ shutdown guy come playoff time.

Ironically, controlling flow has brought individual recognition. Bryant was last season’s MVP; James is leading this year. If they win an NBA Title, the legend of Kobe and LeBron will again grow.  

What are your thoughts on Bryant and James controlling flow? Does it make them better players? Get at us in the comment box below with thoughts and come back to HoopsVibe The Blog for further NBA Tidbits. Photo courtesy of jndotcom.