Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Most of the greatest stars in league history were masters on both ends of the ball. Elite players work on every aspect of their game, including their defensive abilities.
Former NBA Champion Jeremy Lin found out about the commitment required to be an elite defender when he was traded to the Lakers in 2014. He described his first practice session with Kobe Bryant and how the legend ensured everyone worked on defense for 50 minutes in that practice.
"We did 50 minutes of defense, we didn't touch the ball. It was defensive stances, closeouts, turning your hips, and full-court slides. For 50 minutes. At the end, he was like, 'Everybody makes 10 transition threes, and then we're gonna call it.' I was like, 'What just happened'? It was so tiring but it changed my mindset because I was like, 'Yeah, why don't we do more of that?' Defense is half of the basketball game and I had never worked on my defense in a skill workout. I really credit Kobe for challenging and reshaping my perspective on what skill workouts look like."
Kobe was a defensive stalwart during his prime, making 12 All-Defense teams in his career. Everyone knows he was one of the best scorers the game has ever seen, but his defensive excellence is often forgotten.
To be one of the greatest players to ever play, it needs to come with a certain level of obsession regarding the game. These greats dedicate every ounce in them to becoming legends, and training is one of the most unglamorous aspects of what they do. Kobe's training stories always seem wild, as this was a man that put perfecting his craft over almost anything in the world.
Bryant averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists for his career and made 15 All-NBA teams, along with 18 All-Star appearances. His five championships were extremely hard-fought. None of these successes happened if Bryant didn't value being one of the greatest players ever, as he put in the work necessary to feed that obsession.