Nutmegging opponents is nothing new to soccer fans, but for basketball fans, it’s not something you see everyday unless you’re watching an old Mixtape Tour video from the early-00s. That’s why a lot of people freaked out when Kobe Bryant nutmegged Kevin Durant during the Lakers’ game on Friday against Oklahoma City. Bryant saw some space between Durant’s legs, so he threw a bounce pass to Roy Hibbert and got one of the flashiest assists of his career.
“It’s a really complicated answer, but in America, basketball is really taught in twos — one-two pick-and-roll or a give-and-go or something like that,” he said. “Playing soccer growing up, you really see the game in combinations of threes, sometimes fours and how you play within triangles and how you [move] on the opposite side of the field and working on the backside.
“So you see things in multiple combinations and growing up and playing that, my eye and my brain became accustomed to seeing those combinations of threes and fours versus ones and twos.”
Bryant sees one NBA team that excels at playing the game in such a soccer-friendly way: the San Antonio Spurs. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, as the Spurs have been lauded for their ability to share the basketball for years. According to Bryant, there’s a simple reason for why San Antonio’s ball movement is so good, and it has to do with how it built its roster.
“It’s very difficult, which is why the [San Antonio] Spurs have nothing but Europeans over there that grew up playing soccer,” Bryant said with a laugh.
The Spurs have a bunch of players with ties to Europe – Tony Parker and Boris Diaw are natives of France, Boban Marjanović is Serbian, Matt Bonner played in Italy (and he’s New Hampshire’s greatest basketball player ever), Patty Mills is a native of Australia, Tim Duncan was born and raised in Saint Croix of the American Virgin Islands, Danny Green played in Slovenia, and while Manu Ginobili is from Argentina, he played professionally in Italy before coming to the NBA.