Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant admits that European basketball players are more skilled than today’s American players.
There are currently 101 international players in the NBA. France has the most Europeans with 10. The reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs have nine international players – more than any other side.
“I just think European players are just way more skillful,” Bryant told ESPN Friday night after the Lakers’ 109-106 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
“They are just taught the game the right way at an early age. … They’re more skillful. It’s something we really have to fix. We really have to address that. We have to teach our kids to play the right way.”
Bryant blames the greed and coaching at the AAU [Association of American Universities] level for what he believes to be the decline of American players.
“AAU basketball,” Bryant said. “Horrible, terrible AAU basketball. 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.”
When the Philadelphia-born Bryant was six-years-old, he moved to the small town of Reiti in Italy with his family as his dad, Joe Bryant, a former NBA player signed for a team in the region, until he retired and moved back to the States in 1991.
While in Italy, the young Bryant learned how to dribble and shoot as well as perfect his footwork. His time in Italy, he admits helped him in his NBA career.
“I probably wouldn’t be able to dribble with my left and shoot with my left and have good footwork,” Bryant said. “I was kind of fortunate because when I was growing up in Italy, the Red Auerbachs and the Tex Winters and all those great coaches were doing clinics and camps in Europe.
“They were teaching all the club coaches, and the club coaches were following their advice and their fundamentals like the bible, and they were teaching all of us kids that type of stuff. Me, Manu [Ginobili] and all these guys that grew up around that same time, we’re a product of that. It’s a big difference.”
Bryant had a simple solution to the problem facing young Americans being taught the game of basketball in the States.
“Teach players the game at an early age and stop treating them like cash cows for everyone to profit off of,” he said. “That’s how you do that. You have to teach them the game. Give them instruction.”
But Bryant, who holds an annual summer basketball camp, was also quick to point out that any solution involving changing the current culture of AAU basketball won’t be solved quickly.
“That’s a deep well because then you start cutting into people’s pockets,” Bryant said. “People get really upset when you start cutting into their pockets because all they do is try to profit off these poor kids. There’s no quick answer.”