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Kobe Bryant doesn’t like how NBA has become more finesse game

Jan 21, 2014, 11:32 AM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

It changed in the fall of 2004. Up to that point a defender out on the perimeter could put his hand on the guy he was guarding — “hand check” him” — and with that the league allowed defenders to be more physical, to grab a little. Go back and watch highlights of Gary Payton on defense, you’ll see.

With the start of the 2004-05 season, defenders couldn’t touch a guy on the perimeter, couldn’t bump him at all — no real contact is allowed. It changed the game and ushered in an era of the fast, slashing guards and even bigger players. It’s part of the small-ball trend. If you’re quick on the perimeter now, you’re nearly impossible to guard one-on-one, no matter how good the defender. Tony Parker couldn’t guard Tony Parker under these rules.

Kobe Bryant doesn’t like them.

Sounding decidedly old-school (because he is) in a media availability session Monday, Bryant was asked about the biggest change in the NBA since he entered it in 1996, and it was basically hand-checking and the fallout of that rule change. Here are his quotes, via Steve Aschburner of

“It’s more of a finesse game. It’s more small ball. Which, personally, I don’t really care much for,” Bryant said. Like so many from the old-school – even at 35, Bryant qualifies – he is befuddled at the soft stuff now that passes for physical play. “Makes me nauseous,” he said. “You can’t touch a guy….

“Nowadays, anybody can get out there and get to the basket – you can’t touch ‘em,” he said. “Back then, if you have guys putting their hands on you, you have to have the skills to be able to go both ways, change directions, post up and have that mid-range game, because you didn’t want to go all the way to the basket because you’d get knocked [down].”

A lot of fans bemoan this as well… but the NBA wanted a more offense-driven game rather than the grinding 1990s New York Knicks style. That’s just good business. There were potentially other ways to address the issue, but the one the NBA chosen has worked. That and allowing zone defenses changed the game. We’re seeing pace and scoring go up this season, and that sells tickets.

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In other news, Kobe scoffed at the idea he might not come back because of the Lakers’ struggles, letting them tank into a higher draft pick. What did you really think he was going to say? He sounded like he will be back before the All-Star Game, which means he will be play in that game.

Also, he’s not playing in the 2016 Olympics. Which we knew but he reiterated.

  1. aboogy123456 - Jan 21, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    I agree, the rules are worse and the biggest, strongest guy in the league (lebron) can’t even take a foul. I think Kobe would be even better if he played in the 80’s – 90’s because he plays physical basketball and it would be harder for teams to double and triple him because of the zone defense rules.

    • aboogy123456 - Jan 21, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      Also, zone defense was not implemented to create a more offensive game. The reason for zone defense was so that there would be less one-on-one basketball and players would have to pass more to create offense. It’s worked too, if you look at the leading scorers in the league they score substantially less than they did in previous eras.

    • aboogy123456 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      Also, zone defense was not implemented to create a more offensive game. The reason for zone defense was so that there would be less one-on-one basketball and players would have to pass more to create offense. It’s worked too, if you look at the leading scorers in the league they score substantially less than they did in previous eras

    • vi3tguy415 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      why would lebum take a foul when he can just flop first? ref gonna buy it anyway.

      • RavenzGunnerz - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:17 PM

        If the rule change resulted into the type of basketball we witnessed in the 2013 NBA Finals, then I am all for it.

        I was sick n tired of all the low scoring games I was watching from the Pistons & Spurs in 2004-2007.

    • reesesteel23 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      Seeing as Kobe’s shooting percentage(more times than not) is HORRIBLE the way they call the game…..I’m not sure how he would benefit from more physical play.

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        I’m not sure you know what horrible means.

  2. miamiheatdynasty - Jan 21, 2014 at 11:50 AM


  3. bucrightoff - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    No Kobe fan here but obviously he’s dead right with this one. The NBA of the 80s and 90s is simply a better product than todays NBA. Flopping is a direct result of the no physicality allowed on defense approach. Because if you can’t touch a guy, when you even slighty do so, it just makes sense (even as I utterly despise it) to flop.

  4. asimonetti88 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    Michael Jordan was one of the most physical and dominating perimeter defenders of his era. Today, most of his defensive techniques would not be allowed.

  5. wingsfan97 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    He couldn’t have said it any better…that rule change is why I don’t watch basketball anymore

  6. joshm5683 - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    I’m a HUGE Kobe and HUGE Lakers fan……..on their season ticket waiting list, went to a Finals game in Boston even……….haha but come on Kobe……he is 1 of the guys who everytime he gets stripped or goes to the hoop hes looking around for a foul call. He isn’t as bad as Wade as far as whining for a call, but Kobe is far from innocent. I do think Kobe could have been very successful in the 80s or early 90s, but hes taking advantage of the rules nowdays just like everyone else.

    • vi3tguy415 - Jan 21, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      what pick was he in the 1996 draft? what player did be back up in his rookie year? and don’t you dare to search. if you don’t know, then you r not his so called ” HUGE FAN”. quit making it up that you are his big fan. most likely lebum fan trying to make him look bad even to his so called fan.

  7. jennsanz - Jan 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    less contact more injuries… more promotions…. lol..

  8. antistratfordian - Jan 21, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    Please – this from the guy who doesn’t want to take charges because he’s afraid to hurt his back.

    What’s really rich is how he says he didn’t personally benefit from any rule changes, even though he’s scored most of his points in this era. He goes on about how he would get his points in any era and that, “upper-echelon players, are going to do what they do no matter what the rules are.”

    Fine, but here’s the problem with that thinking when it comes to Kobe specifically: He’s always hurt. In THIS era.

    Kobe always has some sort of injury that he’s trying to cope with – shoulder surgery, first wrist injury, ankle, bad back, broken index finger, right knee, hip, elbow, pinky injury, broken nose, second wrist injury, shin, torn achilles, left knee fracture – every month it was something new! So why would he think his fragile body could withstand something like the Bad Boys Pistons?

    And there was no platelet-rich plasma treatment back in the 80’s! He should actually be grateful to be playing now because his career might’ve been cut in half if he played at any other time.

    • 1heatedtoombrayduh - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      wow…spot on lol..and i actually like kobe haha

    • ogwhiteissac - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      You have to be trolling, since your argument doesn’t make any sense.

      Of course he scored more points in the second part of his career. After 2004 with Shaq no longer on the team, he became the only true scoring threat on the team – plus he is a rampant gunner. BTW did you see even watch those teams? What did you expect Smush Parker to pick up the scoring load? And even when the Lakers got Gasol, Gasol was still able to put up 18-20 ppg.

      All those injuries? Didn’t stop him from playing in this latter half without Shaq, and he still lead the team to two championships. Since the 2005 season, not including this season, he has missed 42 games in the regular season, which works out to a bit over 5 games missed per season during that time.

      Nice try though. Trolls gonna troll.

      • antistratfordian - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:44 PM

        I didn’t say anything about missing games – he’s played through a lot of injuries – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t injured. His body is fragile – it always has been. He couldn’t last in the 80’s.

      • ogwhiteissac - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        your argument makes zero sense. if his body was so fragile, he’d miss games. instead his tolerance for pain and his ability to play through that pain for 5 championship runs and becoming an all-time top 10 player wouldn’t change if he played in the 80s. Besides it was the 90s that got Stern to change the rules, and wouldn’t you know, Kobe was playing during the 90s.

        Like I said, trolls gonna troll.

      • antistratfordian - Jan 23, 2014 at 9:18 PM

        your argument makes zero sense. if his body was so fragile, he’d miss games.

        what!? no. just because he played with a broken finger doesn’t mean his finger wasn’t broken. he is always injured. whether he plays with the injury or not doesn’t change the fact that his body is injured. he has a fragile body – kind of like d.wade.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 21, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      Wait a second. You mean he scored more points in his prime as the number one option than he did when he was young and the second option?

      Next thing you know you’re going to tell me he averaged less minutes when he got in the game less!

      • antistratfordian - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:46 PM

        You need to read what I said more carefully – you missed the point. He wants to criticize his league as being soft, but then also say he didn’t benefit from the softness – that he would score the same in any era.

        My point is that he is injury prone so if he played in a tougher league his body wouldn’t hold up as much.

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 21, 2014 at 6:44 PM

        How is he injury prone if he has played in 73 or more games in 11 of the 16 82 game seasons during his career? You realize you’re making literally no sense.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 21, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      That fragile body has played more minutes than all but 4 individuals in the history of the NBA. Guess that makes the other several thousand players in NBA history made out of glass.

      • antistratfordian - Jan 21, 2014 at 6:08 PM

        uh…because he’s playing in a soft league… ??? did you forget what Kobe was talking about?

    • money2long - Jan 21, 2014 at 3:58 PM

      hahaha he’s talking about charges. hahaha
      let’s see, i guess tough guys fly 10 feet across the court when nudged by a point guard, aka flop, aka lebron’s special move. so lemme get this straight. this guy who swears by lebron is trying to insinuate kobe isn’t tough, while he loverboy in miami, all 250lbs of him , flies and flops all over the court. so if kobe if you want to insinuate kobe isnt tough because he avoids taking flops and would rather go for the challenge of making a basketball play, what is lbj, who will flop for a call ?

      • antistratfordian - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:53 PM

        Kobe is tough mentally – his body isn’t tough though. It lets him down.

        His own words:

        I don’t take charges. I learned from my predecessors. Pippen had a [messed] up back taking charges. Bird had a [messed] up back taking charges. I said, ‘I’m not taking charges.’

        He also said:

        Shane [Battier] does a great job taking charges. Fish actually does a great job taking charges too. It’s a skill. It’s definitely a skill. There’s a difference between taking a charge and flopping.

        So it’s not about him not wanting to flop. He’s just afraid of getting hurt. So much for him liking contact and physical play!

      • money2long - Jan 21, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        you lose your mind more and more everyday !

        okay, so lemme get this straight. we are judging kobe bryant’s toughness based off charges ? hahahahha so close the book! the proof’s in the pudding. kobe dislikes charges, so he is a wimp. hahaha. your logic, or whatever reasoning tool you use, amazes me on a daily basis.

      • antistratfordian - Jan 21, 2014 at 7:47 PM

        No, we are judging the toughness of his muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones based on the fact that he’s always injured.

        I didn’t say he was a wimp, I clearly said he was mentally tough (that must be why I typed “Kobe is tough mentally”). His body isn’t though. His body couldn’t handle the punishment of the 80s.

      • money2long - Jan 21, 2014 at 8:02 PM

        OKAY GREAT. let’s judge that.

        your idea of tough is very limited i see. and it’s further proof that you are blinding yourself from kobe’s toughness. let’s go with your, body being hurt toughness.

        if we are looking at it in that sense, kobe is the toughest son of a gun in the game then. i think you are so blind and confused, that you lack the capacity to understand the difference between TOUGH and DURABLE.

        what you’re analyzing is durability. that is not the issue here. the issue here is toughness. grab a dictionary before you continue reading because you will further look ignorant.

        kobe may have had to fight through many ailments. the fact he is able to want to play through all of them is the definition of tough. his wrist, or his finger, or knee may have suffered some discomfort, however, that is not what toughness is judged by.

        toughness is judged by one’s ability to overcome the burden. and kobe has shown that he has a pretty good resume of not letting nagging injuries get in his way.

        also, he plays aggressive. even at this stage. kobe is a ferocious guy. he is by no means soft. which is the antonym of tough.

        you’re actually trying to dismiss kobe’s dna because he doesn’t think it’s smart for him to take a charge ?

        that’s all toughness is embodied by ?

        anti, no offense..but you’re an imbecile.

      • antistratfordian - Jan 22, 2014 at 4:58 PM

        toughness of body material or tissue is not an objective issue. kobe’s body is not built for the kind of punishment he says he craves – it crumbles under much less stress than that.

        about this charge taking thing though – i was wrong. kobe is afraid to take charges because he doesn’t want to get hurt. those are his words. what else is he afraid of? who knows. is he full of it here? he might be.

      • dedalus13 - Jan 22, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        tough (tf)
        adj.tough·er, tough·est
        1. Able to withstand great strain without tearing or breaking; strong and resilient: a tough all-weather fabric.
        2. Hard to cut or chew: tough meat.
        3. Physically hardy; rugged: tough mountaineers; a tough cop.
        4. Severe; harsh: a tough winter.
        5. a. Aggressive; pugnacious.
        b. Inclined to violent or disruptive behavior; rowdy or rough: a tough street group.
        6. Demanding or troubling; difficult: skipping the toughest questions.
        7. Strong-minded; resolute: a tough negotiator.

        im·be·cile (mb-sl, -sl)
        1. A stupid or silly person; a dolt.
        2. A person whose mental acumen is well below par.
        3. A person of moderate to severe mental retardation having a mental age of from three to seven years and generally being capable of some degree of communication and performance of simple tasks under supervision. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive.

        4. A person who doesn’t understand or include def #1) of tough in his own personal definition and urge people to check the dictionnary.

        I am sure that the “mental” toughness of Kobe will be part of his legacy. I really wonder if his career would have been this long (and counting) in another era. There are 16 guys STILL playing in the first 100 of the all time career leaders list for games, and about 35 for the first 250 (like Earl Watson with 864 games; this corresponds to 10 1/2 seasons, not so long before the no-hand-checking era). So I am tempted to think that nowadays guys are enjoying longer careers, partly because of the softer play (technology and training changed a lot as well).

      • money2long - Jan 23, 2014 at 6:19 PM

        you are a fool sir. it’s not picking a perosnal defintion of a word. the point that fool antoi was making was that kobe couldnt SURVIVE in the 80s because he isnt tough enough. that idea of TOUGH is to WITHSTAND and CONTINUE within that era. kobe has shown us that his TOUGHNESS can WITHSTAND the era. and that its where you and anti lose your logic because KOBE’S TOUGHNESS is a representation of his ability to PUSH THROUGH any obstacle injury-wise. the idea that kobe couldnt survive the era isnt a point of not getting injured. because if that is the case, kobe is injured NOW IN THIS ERA. if the idea of TOUGH was to make the point of surviving injury, how has kobe shown that he CAN NOT survive with an injury? the TOUGH factor in kobe’s case is that of pushing through the injury, hence kobe has shown us nothing in THIS ERA that would show us that he can not withstand an injury. why would an era change kobe’s ability to push through an injury? SMH AT YOU BOTH HAHAHHAHAHAH

      • money2long - Jan 22, 2014 at 8:09 PM

        You are very confused. Step back and blink your eyes multiple times.
        You are letting your hate for Kobe blind you. You are so obsessed with trying to impart unto the world your negative point of view of Kobe Bryant that you are now confused as to what toughness is.

        Kobe Bryant is tough. Why you want to continue to say anything opposite is a display of you wanting to continue to dig a hole of your own stupidity.

        You still have not looked up the definition of durability vs toughness. Your idea that Kobe would not have survived the 80s because his body would suffer is not a analysis of his toughness. Rather, it is an analysis of Kobe’s durability.

        The toughness aspect comes Into play when observing how he or anyone deals with whatever ailment they are dealing with. The tough guy is the one that can finish the race on a broken leg. The tough guy is the one who wants to do a laborious job with a high fever. The tough guy is the person who gets up after being knocked out and wants to keep fighting.

        That is tough. You’re definition of tough is that if you get a fever or break your leg or get knocked out that you aren’t tough. No. You are tough if you can overcome those things. And Kobe has shown over his career that he won’t allow injuries to be too big of a deterrent to him doing his job. That is tough.

        What Kobe has shown us during his career is that he would play with an injured finger, he’ll just wrap it up thick, change his form and go to work. Kobe has shown us yes, he’ll hurt his ankle or shin. He’ll just wrap it up and pace himself and let the adrenaline numb his pain while he plays. He is one of the best at coping with injuries.

        That is tough.

        So why is it that you think that if Kobe hypothetically got traded to the 80s, that all of a sudden that would stop ?

        So what if Kobe gets a bruised rib while playing the bad boy pistons ? Does that mean you should be allowed to say he isn’t tough? Kobe wouldn’t be tough in that case if he went to the locker room after getting the injury, cried and said he doesn’t want to play anymore.

        Stop confusing durability with toughness. And respect Kobe’s tough DNA.

        Cease the hate. Open your eyes. Kobe is one of the toughest players the nba has ever witnessed.

  9. conjecture101 - Jan 21, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    “We’re seeing pace and scoring go up this season, and that sells tickets.”

    Actually the Nielson ratings suggest more people were watching basketball during the Jordan era bulls which consisted of slower paced, physical battles, with teams like the New York Knicks, Miami Heat & Utah Jazz. There has been an increase in popularity if you compare today to circa 2005, but it has not touched the height of the Jordan era. While there are a number of products that contribute to the marketability of the league, I find it extremely difficult to believe that anyone WANTS to watch a wide open, defenseless, rec-league game, with SF’s playing the 4 in order to create “spacing.” And I’ve yet to hear one person ever agree with the way flagrant fouls are being officiated nowadays. So how these rules are good for business, have yet to be legitimately explained.

    • dedalus13 - Jan 22, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      Totally agree. To be honest, the 94 finals rate amongst my personal best in terms of intensity and emotion, and I couldn’t care less about the less-than-100-points-mark blah blah.

  10. vi3tguy415 - Jan 21, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    THUMBS DOWN ARE MIAMI FANS BTW. they just want to hear negative things about kobe so they can feel good about lebum.

  11. censormynameandmycomments - Jan 21, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    Lakers can’t tank. Or at least they have no reason to. Suns have their pick.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      No they don’t.

    • bougin89 - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:28 PM

      That’s not accurate. The Lakers still have their 1st round pick this year.

      The Suns got the Lakers first round picks in 2013 and 2015.

  12. bougin89 - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    The rule changes, especially the no hand checking, have resulted in lots of really tic tac fouls that are not called consistently, at all. The stars get the benefit of the doubt but other players don’t. That’s probably the most frustrating thing about the NBA.

  13. spursareold - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    If hand checking were still allowed, Kobe would average about 14 ppg at this age.

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:41 PM

      He’s averaging 14 PPG this season already.

  14. kclanton80 - Jan 21, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    at what point in his career has Kobe played a physical brand of basketball or had to deal with overly physical defenders? Things were more physical before Kobe’s era but certainly not during his era.This is sour grapes from a guy who can no longer stay in front of anyone and wants to complain that he “can’t be physical”.

    I can’t even recall Kobe ever even taking a hard foul…. maybe i’m wrong but if so, someone provide a link or something. Yeah he scored 81 points but the raptors just watched him pull up all night. No one even thought of giving him a hard shot to slow him down. This era may be less physical but he has certainly been a part of it and reaped the benefits the same as anyone.

    • savvybynature - Jan 21, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      D. Wade broke his nose once in an All-Star game, which was probably the most physical defense he has seen in some time, lol. It’s also further evidence of what a d-bag d-wade is.

    • money2long - Jan 21, 2014 at 10:33 PM

      you wanna see tough? rewind to kobe WALKING to the free throw line on a ruptured achilles.


      • bougin89 - Jan 22, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        People can have their own opinions about Kobe but questioning his toughness is just ignorant. Like you mentioned, hitting those two free throws with a torn achilles isn’t just the definition of toughness, it’s the stuff of legendary toughness.

        This coming from a non-Kobe fan.

    • dedalus13 - Jan 22, 2014 at 3:12 PM

      Your comment is misleading. The no-hand-checking rule which is in question here was enforced at the start of the 04-05 season. So Kobe faced that type of more physical perimeter defense for quite some years…

  15. borderline1988 - Jan 21, 2014 at 11:57 PM

    Kobe’s right about perimeter players having an easier timescoring the ball than 20 years ago.

    What he doesn’t mention though is that big men in today’s game are better shooters, passers, more athletic, better finishers, have better face-up games, etc. That’s a product of the new rules. Guys like Erik Dampier or Kendrick Perkins were a dime a dozen in the 1990s; those guys would barely get off the bench anymore in today’s NBA. It’s rare in today’s NBA to find a centre or PF that can’t shoot jumpers and bring baseline offensive skills to the table.

    It’s true that the 1990s had some HOF post big men, but they would have been good in any era, and weren’t the product of the 90s, they were simply just very good.

    I don;t mind this new style, we get to see more of a showcase of unbelievable basketball skill.

    The flopping though needs to go; that’s a separate issue

  16. louhudson23 - Jan 22, 2014 at 4:19 AM

    The whole conversation points out the difficulty of playing and succeeding in those days,as well. Skill sets and game play were at a premium,the ability to simply run around someone was not sufficient to succeed. And a host of players laughably deemed “unable” to play in today’s game are vindicated by this reality.
    It’s basketball,not a track and field meet.Speed and jumping ability are always premium commodities,but they alone are not what makes a good player. Rule changes which turn this fact on its head and downplay skill sets and game play in favor of unvarnished raw ability are not good for the game,and have allowed far too many of the unskilled and unschooled to flourish,even as the game itself continues to lose appeal.

    • borderline1988 - Jan 22, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      I couldn’t disagree with you more about skills. Players are more skilled than they have ever been – I don’t see how you can argue this fact. Guys like Keving Durant, Kyrie Irving, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul – the individual skill these players have are off the charts…

      What today’s players lack are certain fundamentals that were deemed to be crucial in the 80s and 90s, such as post footwork, gaining rebounding position, properly setting screens, properly rolling off screens, etc.
      In place of fundamentally sound players, we are getting faster, more individually skilled athletes.

      To me, there are pros and cons of both styles of players…as in most things in life, it’s better to have a balance. I’m happy that Erik Dampier type players don’t have a place in the league anymore…if you lack footspeed and cant shoot at all, you’re going to be exposed in today’s NBA. But it is unfortunate that so many young players seem to lack basic fundamentals and court awareness

    • dedalus13 - Jan 22, 2014 at 3:32 PM

      As a 5’11” folk who was just able to dunk a few times in his early 20’s I am in total agreement with you lol.
      Seriously, athletic ability is just part of the game, not all of it. Today rules certainly favour those guys, but skilled players will always have a place. The fancy thing now: If Bird suceeded in the 80’s, what would he be doing/averaging now in a no-hand-checking era?

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