During the Los Angeles Lakers’ three-peat run at the beginning of the century, their toughest test in the NBA Finals undoubtedly came against the Indiana Pacers in 2000. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal faced off against a Pacers squad led by Reggie Miller who had finally gotten over the hump and made their first Finals appearance.
It was a hard-fought six game series that could have very well gone differently had a couple of things changed, but arguably the key matchup saw a young Kobe go toe-to-toe with the veteran Miller. Bryant was still growing as a player and Miller even recalled teaching him a move that he would later regret, but that isn’t all that helped Kobe prepare.
In his recent Players Only interview with his former teammate Shaq, Kobe revealed that he had done some scouting on Miller via a one-on-one game before the season even began:
“I was filming some show at UCLA the summer before (the 2000 NBA Finals), and Reggie Miller was up there. I said, ‘OK, they’ve got a really good team. We might see these guys.’ And I said, ‘Let’s play one-on-one.’ And we played one-on-one, and I proceeded to really measure him. See what he liked to do defensively, see where he moves, see where he was weak at and what I could exploit. So when that happened and the Finals were here, I knew what I had and knew what I could take. I knew what he would give me. It was a matter of just measuring and going to work. It was a thought-out attack.”
These are the kinds of things that separated Kobe from the average player. It’s not just that he worked on his own game, but he was always looking to see who would be his biggest rivals and what he needed to do to take them down.
That mindset and relentlessness is what made Kobe one of the greatest players ever as he was sizing up a future Hall of Famer and Miller had no idea.
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