Last week, I spoke with veteran journalist Michael Tillery. I asked to compare Kobe Bryant’s basketball IQ to LeBron James’ IQ since he has had the opportunity to cover both players throughout his career as a journalist.
First, he dissected Kobe’s and then detailed LeBron’s.
“It’s interesting because I think they are two different robots. Two different models that are just as effective, I would watch Kobe [Bryant] when he would come to Philadephia, and there was a writer named E. James Beale. He said to me. I wonder if Kobe sees the floor as a grid. So, after the game, we went into the locker room and asked him the very question, and he confirmed it,” said Tillery.
“So, Kobe has this mind that was seeing the floor, separately than even basketball. So, a lot of people walk with a basketball they use the basketball court. They shoot at the rim, they look at the lines, but they are not looking at in boxes like Kobe did. To be where he could be in certain places on the floor to score. He did this thing where it was this elbow jumper maybe eight to ten feet from the basket. He would incessantly before he moved out, other spots. So, that’s where that grid started from for him.”
I recently posed that same question to former Sixers forward Randy Holcomb.
“Okay, I’m going to give you two answers; it is a tough question to answer that question. I think the IQs for the game are actually the same. I had a chance to talk to Kobe, and there is a misconception about Kobe that you saw. God rest his soul. When he stepped off the court, the person was like this genius and very soft and very humbled individual. When he spoke about the game of basketball,” said Holcomb on Clubhouse.
“So, his IQ when you listen to him, he knew everything that was going on the floor. After I talked to him I was like, f*** this dude likes the subtleties. Understanding the footwork that he was doing and why he did certain things. He had a reason why he was doing when he stepped off the floor or his workout and what he was looking for. The problem with Kobe was the application was not always there on the floor. The same way it is LeBron on the floor. Like, Kobe was inherently selfish and that was detrimental to that team.”
He would continue, “In some situations over the course of his career, I think Kobe should have won seven or eight championships. Maybe nine or ten championships had he put his ego to the side. Everyone said Kobe wanted to win, and I believe that in talking to him. However, he wanted to win his way. Life necessary does not work like that either. When you enter into a team realm, it’s hard to say I want to do it my way.”
As for LeBron James, “I don’t think LeBron is inherently selfish; I think he is inherently passive. I also think he pushes himself to selfishness, and it is uncomfortable for him. I think he would prefer to be in a secondary role. I don’t believe that he would not have taken a secondary role to D Wade if it meant winning. I don’t believe he would not have taken a secondary role to Kyrie. I think he was trying to hand the team off to Anthony Davis before he got hurt. He was putting up 22 points a game, but it was not at an efficient rate. So, he’s trying to hand teams off to other people over the course of his career. Even in his heyday and at his peak,’ said the former Sixer.
“Kobe on the court would do things that were detrimental that would take other people out of rhythm. He would not care about anyone else on the basketball court and turn it into him versus them. Whether it was Shaq or Karl Malone, or whether he was playing with Dwight Howard, or whatever the case might be.
As you get older, imagine that you start to figure out that it is a team sport and you cannot necessarily do it by yourself. I don’t think Kobe was ever in that space where he felt like that when he played the basketball game. However, if you get him off the floor, there is not a more beautiful basketball mind. His basketball mind was beautiful to answer your question.”
Holcomb was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2002 but was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers with Mark Bryant and John Salmons in exchange for Speedy Claxton.