“It helped me tremendously.” Lakers guard, Kobe Bryant, said when asked about the game of soccer. Bryant who lived in Italy from age 6 through 13 adds, ““When you grow up playing soccer, you obviously carry that over to other sports.”
Kobe Bryant, who has undoubtedly gone down in history as one of basketball’s greatest players, explains how soccer has significantly influenced his basketball career. “Most of the time, American basketball is only taught in twos: 1-2, pick and roll, or give and go, or something like that,” Bryant explained. “In playing soccer growing up, you really see the game in a combination of threes, sometimes fours—and how you play within triangles.”
“You see things in multiple combinations,” Bryant continued. “And growing up playing (soccer), my eye and my brain became accustomed to seeing those combinations in threes and fours versus one and two.”
Over the span of Kobe’s impressive career, he has been known for his scoring. However, it is evident that Bryant’s love for soccer gave him the skills to see beyond scoring points as his stats also include over 6,000 assists. Cutting into open spaces and passing the ball rather than firing it were skills he no doubt, developed as a young boy playing soccer.
Basketball greats and the game of soccer
Basketball MVP’s such as Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker played soccer as young kids in Germany and France. Basketball Hall of Famer, Hakeem Olajuwon, credits his soccer days in Nigeria for his impressive footwork.
Can you imagine basketball greats Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw, and Grant Hill forming a circle with a man who brought a soccer ball after the Phoenix Suns finished their practice? They take turns juggling the ball with their feet, chests, thighs, and foreheads. Each showed off tricks they learned years ago, perhaps in their youth.
The man who brought the soccer ball that day was Frank Leboeuf, a member of France’s 1998 World Cup-winning team. However, watching the group, you could say that they all moved like professional soccer players.
Had it not been for their basketball uniforms, Nash, Barbosa, Diaw, and Hill, who developed their soccer skills on the soccer fields of Canada, Brazil, France and the US would have made it hard for anyone watching to identify that they did not play the sport professionally. Or were in fact, professional players for an entirely different sport.
Soccer, like basketball, is a “game of geometry, spacing distances, direct lines” and here are ways that soccer has helped the basketball greats regardless of the fact that they played soccer years ago in their youth:
● Develops lower-body strength
● Footwork skills
● Quick-passing offense
● Improves agility
● Advances defensive skills
● Ability to create intense, short bursts of speed
● Quick to change direction while moving at high speeds
Passing skills based on proper angles and spacing