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Posts tagged with "Kobe Bryant"

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Retired basketball legend and walking “Type A” personality example Kobe Bryant recently took to social media to issue seemingly random challenges to several NBA players and celebrities. These included challenges to Isaiah Thomas to make First Team All-NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo to earn NBA MVP honors and rapper Kendrick Lamar to revolutionize the music program at a local high school. They involved competition. They involved bold communication. They involved the assumption that others care what Kobe thinks of them.

All in all, it was classic Kobe.

So we here at Bleacher Report decided to pick up where the Mamba left off and issue challenges for the best player on each of the 30 NBA teams. Why stop at only a few guys? What about Blake Griffin, Rudy Gobert, Jimmy Butler and the dozens of other stars who make up the NBA universe? What about them?

We split the task among the six writers with the most Mamba blood: Michael Curtis, Maurice Peebles, Brad Rowland, Dave Schilling, Seerat Sohi and Josh Tolentino. Nobody tells a Mamba what to do, so each writer has fashioned the challenges in their own way: by poking fun; by diving into stats; by “speaking” directly to the challenged player; by keeping it brief.

See below to find out which challenges the league’s stars should embrace this upcoming season. And always remember, guys: Kobe’s watching.

Atlanta Hawks: Dennis Schroder
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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Challenge: Make the Eastern Conference All-Star Team

In some ways, it would take a significant jump for the guard to get serious All-Star consideration. But it almost makes sense from a trajectory standpoint.

Dennis Schroder averaged 17.9 points and 6.3 assists in 79 regular season games a season ago. Those numbers jumped to 24.7 points and 7.7 assists in the small sample of a playoff series against John Wall and the Wizards. Given that Schroder is, quite easily, the No. 1 offensive option for the rebuilding Hawks, it feels safe to assume he will have a higher usage rate this season, which could allow for another spike in raw production.

The defensive end, which usually seems to matter less in these considerations, was a challenge for Schroder in his first full season as a starter. In the playoffs, though, he elevated his effort and showed significant flashes of what he could be, if everything comes together. Banking on that over 82 games is aggressive, but landing somewhere in the middle could do the trick.

Oh, and did we mention that the Eastern Conference might be down this season? That can only help Schroder’s case.

— Brad Rowland

Boston Celtics: Kyrie Irving
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Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Challenge: End LeBron James’ NBA Finals Streak

The Boston Celtics are the Taylor Swift of the NBA. They’re constantly in the headlines, constantly praised for doing things “the right way” and are held up as an example of who others should aspire to be. But for the Celtics—much like with Swift—in the end it doesn’t even matter (R.I.P. Chester). What are we all talking about here? A team with a ton of new faces and no depth ousting perhaps the greatest team in NBA history? A music video about a beef from two years ago everyone already forgot about? C’mon, Celtics. C’mon, Taylor.

Forced analogies aside, there is one thing the C’s can do to make a long-term impact on the league. Kyrie Irving, I challenge you to end LeBron James’ NBA Finals streak. As you’re well aware, your frenemy King James has been in each of the last seven NBA Finals. It’s on you to ensure his streak doesn’t make it to eight. Kyrie, nobody cares if Boston earns the No. 1 seed and nobody will think more of you should Bron run through your new squad like he ran through replacement hairlines while filming Trainwreck. Meet him in the east finals. Beat him in the east finals. There’s no other path to success.

— Maurice Peebles

Brooklyn Nets: Jeremy Lin
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Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Challenge: Bring Back Linsanity

Jeremy, your challenge is simple. I challenge you to bring back Linsanity.

Remember Linsanity? Of course you do. It’s why you’re relevant. You need to bring that feeling back to the city of New York, more specifically to the borough of Brooklyn. D’Angelo Russell will enter this season thinking he’s the best player on the court, but anyone who actually watches NBA games and not just Twitter recognizes that you’re a far more complete player than D’Angelo. You’re a better three-point shooter than people think, you’re a better defender than people think, and your hair game is a marketer’s dream. Now is the time for Linsanity’s return.

Remember back when you dropped 38 in Kobe’s eyeball and made him exit MSG with an L? Remember getting 28 and 14 on 20 shots and sending Dirk back to Dallas? Let D-Lo get all the attention but none of the field goal attempts. Embrace your inner Mamba. Everybody needs to go a little Linsane sometimes.

— Maurice Peebles

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Kobe Bryant is one of the many current and former NBA players that have lamented about the way AAU basketball has hurt the game. AAU basketball is by far the most powerful entity in youth basketball, far more than high school hoops, and many have concerns that the style of play that is prevalent in AAU ball is causing kids to skip steps in becoming great basketball players.

Bryant blasted AAU hoops in 2015, complaining that it fails to teach kids the proper fundamentals of basketball, and said that he felt lucky to have grown up playing in Italy.

“AAU basketball — horrible, terrible AAU basketball,” Bryant said. “It’s stupid. It doesn’t teach our kids how to play the game at all, so you wind up having players that are big and they bring it up and they do all this fancy crap and they don’t know how to post. They don’t know the fundamentals of the game. It’s stupid.”

Those concerns about the AAU circuit have led Bryant to his latest entrepreneurial venture since his retirement with the creation of the “Mamba League,” a 40-team co-ed league in Los Angeles for players age 8 to 10 that will be played on 9-foot hoops in an effort to let players grow with the game.

“We challenge kids at the age of 8, 9, 10 to shoot on 10-foot hoops, and that doesn’t make any sense to me,” Bryant said in the video. “When I grew up, we actually played on lower hoops. We played on 9-foot hoops, the court was actually smaller and we could learn how to shoot with proper technique. We could go in and try a reverse layup…Right now, I think we’re putting too much on these kids too early, and they’re not learning proper technique of how to shoot the ball, or proper spacing. I think it winds up eating away at their confidence.”

Bryant also hopes to take the pressure of high-stakes summer hoops and make it fun again for kids to learn the game, rather than have them in a stressful environment that’s overly competitive.

“The Mamba League is a fun league for kids to learn the game, to have fun,” Bryant said. “But also, to understand the connection that the game has with life in general, and convert that into being a better son, a better daughter, a better student.”

It’s strange to hear Bryant, the ultimate competitor in the NBA, talking about wanting to make the game fun and encouraging kids to not worry about trying to be great at a young age, but you can see where his perspective as a father has made him more keenly aware of the necessity of giving kids the right tools to grow. At some point, yes, the pressure will arrive, but as Bryant notes in the video, that can come once kids have grown and developed into a basketball player. At the age of 8, 9, or 10, they’re still kids and Bryant wants to treat them as such.

The Mamba League probably isn’t going to revolutionize youth basketball right now being only in L.A. but with the backing of Nike, there’s certainly the possibility of expansion nationally.

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