There are few things more important to Kobe Bryant before a game than his portable DVD player. It goes wherever he goes before tipoff. On the padded table in the trainer's room. On the floor for a pregame stretching routine. Perched in front of his locker. The Lakers' 10-time All-Star stares at his 10-inch screen, watching basketball clips of the players he'll be guarding. It is part of his longtime commitment to studying video, one of the foundations of a career still going strong in its 13th season.
The Lakers have had dozens of great players over the years, but according to the team's director of video services Chris Bodaken, "Hands down, he's the biggest video fiend we've ever had. I didn't know if it was possible to be more competitive than Magic was, but I think he might be. It carries over into his preparation, and this is part of that."
The Lakers' video staff goes "through an opponent's last few games and find key plays from the players Bryant will guard, presenting him with eight to 12 minutes of edited footage."
The goal is for Bryant to pick up tendencies of rival players. Have they added any new moves? Have they been aggressively driving to the basket or have they been satisfied to drift from the hoop and settle for outside jump shots?
Kobe's objective is "to find ways to take away comfort zones from opponents."
"It's a blueprint," said Bryant, an eight-time member of the NBA all-defensive team. "So if something goes down, it's not something you haven't seen before. Everybody's got tendencies. If he scores 40 on Monday, he's going to try to do it on Tuesday. You've got to take him out of his spots. That's the key."
Says Patrick O'Keefe, another member of the Lakers' video staff:
"It's like a straight-A student who still goes to all the extra study sessions."