Kobe Bryant: Deron Williams psyched himself out

LeBron James, Deron Williams
Deron Williams (AP)
LeBron James, Deron Williams
Deron Williams (AP)

In a follow-up to a long-form article tracking Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant through six days in China, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard released a series of bonus stories that came out of his time with the future Hall of Famer.

In perhaps the most Kobe-intense quotes ever, Bryant told his documentarian Gotham Chopra “I would go 0-30 before I go 0-9.” Why did he say that? Because he’d just seen Deron Williams do the same thing, in a game against the Miami Heat.

Recounts Chopra, “Deron Williams went like 0-for-9. I was like, ‘Can you believe Deron Williams went 0-9?’ Kobe was like, ‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you’ve just now lost confidence in yourself.’

Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated — Kobe Bryant on growing old, players he respects and finding his inner Zen

The game in question was Game 2 of the Eastern Conference playoff series this past season between the Heat and Nets, in which Williams missed all nine of his attempts en route to a 94-82 Nets loss. It was the first scoreless playoff game of Williams’s career. As you might expect, Williams earned an F that night.

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Williams’s confidence issues have been no secret since he came to Brooklyn — he’s said openly that his confidence has waxed and waned on a nightly basis, often in connection with his balky ankles.

It’s never a bad thing when Kobe Bryant respects your skills, as he clearly does with Williams. But it’s also true that Williams has been a different player in the past few seasons than the one Bryant’s accustomed to. Though the two battled more often when Williams was with the Utah Jazz, his shots per game have declined precipitously in the past few seasons, from a career-high 17.5 per game in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season to just 11.2 per game in this past year. But the optimist would counter that the two ankle surgeries Williams had this offseason should do the trick.

Bryant, of course, has never lacked confidence: despite his team’s notoriously poor season last year and his aging, recovering body (he missed most of last season with a knee injury), he still believes the Lakers are going to win the NBA title.