An Inside Look at What Makes Kobe Bryant Great

One of the most remarkable people in basketball is shooting coach Dave Hopla. Coach Hopla has worked in the NBA for several years with the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards.

In addition to working directly for NBA teams, Coach Hopla has been hired privately by the game's best players. We asked him to share one of his most memorable stories.

Coach Hopla had the opportunity to work with Kobe Bryant back in 1996, before he was drafted by the Lakers, and then continued to work with him for the first four years of Kobe's NBA career.

Here is a quick story about the first time they met:

Kobe called late one evening to set up a workout for the following day. The only time Coach Hopla had available was 5:30 a.m. because he was heading out of town around lunch time. Kobe said, "Sounds good, let's do it."

Coach Hopla arrived at the gym at 5:15 a.m. and saw that Kobe was already there... preparing for the workout to start at 5:30 a.m. Kobe had arrived at 4:45 a.m. He was in a full sweat before the workout officially started.

The first drill they did was a Half-Court Shuttle Drill:

  • You need one ball and one person to rebound and pass
  • Set up a cone at mid-court and two cones at the free throw line extended (3 feet from sideline).
  • Start at mid-court and sprint for a jump shot at the free throw line.
  • Sprint back to the mid-court cone, then sprint to either outside cone for another jump shot.
  • Sprint back to mid-court, then sprint to the other cone for a jump shot.
  • Lastly, sprint to mid-court, and sprint in to finish with a dunk or layup.
  • If you miss any shots, you continue until you make the shot from that spot.
  • Record your best time. A good time is less than 21 seconds on an NBA court.

In his first time doing the drill, Kobe moved at lighting pace and nailed his first three jump shots... but then missed the final dunk (pounded it off the back rim).

Without hesitation (or without complaining or pouting), Kobe sprinted after the ball (which bounced all the way past half court), picked it up, sprinted back and took off from just inside the foul line and dunked it home. He then looked up and said, "What was my time?" Without prompting from Coach Hopla, he jogged to mid-court and began the drill again.

That was the first drill Coach Hopla ever took Kobe through. He immediately knew that Kobe was a special player and would go down in history as one of the greats. Over the next few years of working with Kobe, Coach Hopla made this observation:

"Kobe has a sense of urgency with everything he does. Every rep, every shot, every drill is important to him. He takes advantage of every opportunity to get better. Kobe is never satisfied with his game and is always looking to improve. That hunger is what makes him great."

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