How Kobe’s game worked (and how it didn’t)

After we mapped all 30,699 of Kobe Bryant’s shots from his 20-year career, readers were curious about how the Laker star’s shot chart matched up against other players.

Using the same data from (which goes back to 1996) and an open-source program called Ballr, we made charts that illustrate the different playing styles of some of the NBA’s top players.

These charts break down the court into hexagonal areas, then calculate the difference between the league average and the player’s shooting percentage. The hexagon sizes are proportional to the number of shots the player took in that area (so the area under the basket is usually the largest).

Though Kobe Bryant shot better in the 8- to 24-foot range, he didn’t restrict himself to midrange jump shots. And though his outside shooting was mostly near league average, he managed to rack up points from all areas of the court — albeit inefficiently from the left corner — on his way to third place on the all-time NBA points list.

The Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry’s accuracy has helped him become the league’s most prominent long-range shooter this season. He’s continued to shatter NBA records for three-pointers, partly by shooting a lot of short threes from the corners.


LeBron James specializes in using his size and strength to drive toward the basket, where he shoots at a better rate than most of the league. The Cleveland Cavaliers star’s jump shooting has been inconsistent, but because of his ability to hit three-pointers (especially from the right corner), teams have to guard him all over the court.

A hallmark of Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki’s game has been his midrange shooting, especially from the left side. Interestingly, Nowitzki’s best three-point shooting came from the middle of the court, which is farther from the basket than the corners.

The Clippers’ Chris Paul, who racks up assists as much as any player in the league, is also an efficient shooter. His best midrange shots come from the middle and right side, but he’s not a bad three-point shooter when he decides to take a shot from outside.