FanHouse had a chance to talk with Shaw about the similarities and differences between two of the greatest players of all time.
Is there any kind of comparison to be made between Bird and Bryant?
Brian Shaw: In terms of the stuff they're both made of, yes there is definitely a comparison. There's some of the same stuff. Obviously, they got things done in different ways, but in terms of their preparation, the mental aspect of the game, focus, discipline and the work they put in – come in early, stay late – and how personal they take it when they don't succeed – and then the time they put in after that to make sure it doesn't happen again, I would say they're identical when it comes to that.
Having played with both of them, I've said it before, I haven't seen any player prepare for the game to the level Kobe does. It encompasses everything, from stretching to icing, to watching film, working on your moves, working on weaknesses, come early, respecting the game, understanding those who came before you ... that's a big part of it, too.
A lot of guys nowadays, if they had a legend walk in front of them, they might not have any idea who they were or how they contributed to the game. Kobe didn't go to college but he's a student of the game. It's remarkable the dedication he puts in.
When you're a role player playing with a Kobe Bryant or Larry Bird, how difficult is that? How can you play loose when you're playing with someone on that level?
B.S.: That's what a coach wants: For his superstar to be that person who leads by example. If your top guy is trying to win sprints, trying to win the shooting games, bringing the intensity, it's almost a given that it should trickle down to everyone else and they should fall into place.
Now, mind you, everybody's talent level and drive isn't the same, but in terms of effort this guy, Kobe, is going out there and playing 40 minutes a night and giving it to you on both ends of the floor, and then he comes in the next day at practice and he's going hard. You as a teammate better be going hard at practice.
I can't begin to talk about how much that helps ... when it is that guy.
But what about when you're on the court, when you're playing alongside a player who is that elite, don't you tend to be a little tentative?
B.S.: I think it's the exact opposite. All the times when I used to take the floor with the Lakers and I walked onto the floor with Shaq, the most dominant big man in that era, the coldest-attack player in Kobe on the perimeter. Silent assassin in Horry coming off the bench. Consummate pros in (Derek) Fisher and (Rick) Fox. And then you had the Zen master on the side.
So that made me feel even more invincible or better than I was because I got the best guys around me, on the court with me. So it wasn't a thing of being tentative. But there is an "I don't want to let them down." The reason I got open shots was because they demanded so much attention. So when the ball does come to me, I want to make sure they felt comfortable enough to know I'm going to knock down the shot if they kick it to me.
It's not a scared thing. You walk onto the court feeling even more invincible because you've got those kinds of guys on your side.
In terms of preparation, Kobe Bryant watches a lot of film, but Bird didn't really have that option?
B.S.: Film was just kind of coming into play. So that's an advantage this generation has over the last generation. Scouting and the advances in technology weren't there. So that is something Kobe has an opportunity to take advantage of that Bird didn't.