Observer NBA writer Rick Bonnell's conversation with Bell about what makes Kobe Kobe:
Q: How would you explain to someone who knows nothing about basketball what makes Kobe transcendent?
“That he can do anything. Some guys are really, really good at one thing. Or two or three things. So you might say, ‘Let him take that jump shot (to guard against the drive).'
“He's good at everything and he has this knack for being right on the spot with (crucial) plays. He could go 2-for-30 and in the last two minutes of a game, if he has the ball, his percentages go up to 75 percent.”
Q: So what are the guiding principles of guarding him?
“You've got to keep him off the free throw line, try to make him shoot 18 foot-plus jumpers with a hand in his face. Try to make him work to get the ball – don't let him get it where he wants it.”
Q: And where, in particular, does he want the ball?
“He's great, so his sweet spot is all over the place. But you want to try to make him catch it beyond the 3-point line by a couple of steps so he's got to use more effort to get a good look up. Still, he likes to catch it anywhere – he just likes the ball, so anywhere is a danger spot for him.”
Q: What's his pet move?
“His pull-up jumper, particularly when guys are underneath him, pawing at the ball (trying to get a steal). He likes to square you up and he goes into either a jab(-step) jumper or one hard dribble and it's pretty much unguardable.”
Q: Any effective way to deny him the ball?
“Now that he's got guys around him (Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom), maybe if (you) completely deny him, someone else will take the onus on himself. But he's good enough in their system that even if you deny it, he'll find a way to counter it with a backdoor (pass). You do want to deny him, but there's no way you're going to keep him from catching it, period.”
Q: Gerald Wallace says it's imperative to make him work hard defensively, to try to wear him down. Thoughts?
“You want to make him work, but he's one of the best defenders in the league. I've made him work, and seen other guys make him work at (the defensive) end, and he's still ended up with 50. So I don't know that there's a whole lot to that.”
Q: Ever get frustrated guarding such a versatile scorer?
“Not anymore. When I first started (guarding) him, I wanted to stop everybody on every play. It got a bit discouraging. But after you've been around the league, you realize there's no way you can stop guys completely. You have to have a short memory. Strap in and be ready, because it's really a possession-at-a-time thing with him.”
Q: What's he like when he's frustrated?
“I've seen him get angry, get heated, but mostly that's because he's ultra-competitive. There have been very few times I've seen him really lose his composure to a point where he can't help his team win a game.”
Q: Is he better or worse when angry?
“Depends on what kind of anger; if he's angry at who he's playing against, better. If he's angry at an official, or something else has him off a bit, that could work into his opponent's hands.”