Kobe Bryant has been notoriously outspoken about AAU basketball in recent years. This time, Bryant says that AAU is “absolutely horrible.”

“I hate it because it doesn’t teach our players how to play the right way, how to think the game, how to play in combinations of threes,” Kobe said.

His comments are valid in most aspects, as AAU is a lot more flashy than college and the pros. He went on to elaborate how AAU hoopers lack fundamentals because of the style of play of that league.

“Yeah, but I think that is just by luck in the generation that I grew up in,” he said. “My generation is when AAU basketball really started becoming s—. I got lucky because I grew up in Europe and everything there was still fundamental, so I learned all the basics.”

Watching AAU basketball isn’t something I spend a lot of my time doing. I watch some hoop mixtapes from time to time, but don’t get too involved. What Kobe said about growing up in Europe, however, is spot on. In Europe, the best kids start playing professionally really young. Being in the professional basketball environment as young as 14, 15, or 16 years old helps instill the fundamentals of the game because that’s how games are won.

AAU basketball has a lot of showmanship in it. Dribbling exhibitions and going one-on-one against your defender is how a lot of games are played. The players are looking to showcase their skills and get attention from big programs like Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UNC, and any other school that’ll watch.

While the system is suspect at times, AAU basketball doesn’t hurt the game as much as we think. The players eventually go on to college and coaches at the collegiate level don’t tolerate that style of play and won’t give you minutes if you play like that. In turn, the player buys into a system. Thus getting involved with the fundamentals of the game because that’s what’ll take them to the next level.

Malik Newman is a perfect example of how a coach can turn around a flashy, showy-type player into a solid system player. For Callaway HS and the AAU circuits, Newman was a notorious ball handler and ankle breaker. After committing to Mississippi State, coach Ben Howland has turned Newman into a good collegiate player, and one who will be able to play at the next level. As a freshman this year, Newman is playing very well and doesn’t need flashy dribble combos to beat his defenders one on one. 

In one regard, Kobe is correct in saying that it’s not good for players. The potential is there for players to develop bad habits, but ultimately it’s up to the player to listen to what the collegiate/pro coach says. If a player isn’t willing to listen to their coach, they won’t experience as much success as they could.

*Photo Credit: Bob Donnan / USA Today Sports*