Kobe Bryant has the same perspective on AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball as seemingly every other former baller out there. Former greats watch youth basketball today and comment on it like Uncle Drew: “Back in my day…we got buckets.”
So, what’s wrong with it? Primarily, kids seek their own shots in AAU. They play one-on-one “hero ball.” They’re out there trying to get noticed by recruiters, so they ignore the fundamentals.
In 2015, Bryant made his point of view very clear.
“AAU basketball—horrible, terrible AAU basketball,” he told ESPN Los Angeles. “It’s stupid. It doesn’t teach our kids how to play the game at all, so you wind up having players that are big and they bring it up and they do all this fancy crap and they don’t know how to post. They don’t know the fundamentals of the game. It’s stupid.”
Bryant isn’t just sitting back and being critical, though. He’s actually taking action and trying to change youth hoops.
As a part of Bryant’s extremely active “retirement,” he has partnered with Nike and the Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club to launch the “Mamba League.” The league is a 40-team co-ed youth basketball division. It will run for eight weeks, February-April, in Southern California.
Nike posted a video announcing the league and its premise.
“The Mamba League is a fun league for kids to learn the game and have fun,” Kobe said. “But also to understand the connection that the game has with life in general, and convert that into being a better son, a better daughter, and a better student.”
Good on Kobe for taking action on something he cares about. The league’s coaches are 40 Nike store employees, but they aren’t totally unqualified—USA Basketball trained them on the fundamentals, mentorship, and connecting with young ballers. It helps having Kobe Bryant on your side.