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How Tap Dancing Made Kobe Bryant a Better Basketball Player

Kobe Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash last weekend along with his teenage daughter and seven others, was one of the greatest basketball players who ever lived.

But even the greats deal with injury, and go to creative lengths to stay healthy.


Bryant's injury prevention routine was particularly unique—and involved taking tap classes to strengthen his ankles. (You've probably heard of football players taking ballet, but this one was new to us.)

During the 2000 NBA finals, Bryant suffered the worst sprained ankle of his career, he wrote in his book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play.

That summer, he researched ways to make his ankles stronger, and landed on tap dancing. "I worked on it all of that summer and benefited for the rest of my career," he wrote.

Though Bryant continued to suffer from ankle injuries, tap helped him learn to keep his ankles loose and active, which helped prevent injuries elsewhere.

In 2018, Bryant talked about his tap dancing experience on Jimmy Kimmel, saying that it was "kept secret for obvious reasons" during his NBA career. "My first class I walked into the studio and there were all these six-year-old, seven-year old kids," Bryant told Kimmel. "These kids were looking at me like, what in the world? What is this grown-ass man doing in here learning tap dance?"

Bryant also shared that he had to get his size 14 tap shoes custom-made. Though he stopped dancing after that summer, he says that "for a year there I could tell my feet to do this and they would actually do that."

Tap classes weren't Bryant's only foray into the dance world. The longtime Lakers star was known for befriending greats in other fields to share secrets to success—and one of these was dance legend Debbie Allen.

Allen spoke about Bryant backstage at Sunday's Grammy Awards: "He was in the middle of creating an entire universe for the world to share. Books and theater and movies and everything, a legacy that will still emerge. He was a tremendous supporter of young people in the arts. He was a tremendous supporter of young people everything. It was what his whole life's work was about, and I am just feeling such pain today to have lost that big light."

Our thoughts go out to Bryant's family and friends.

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Courtesy Ava Noble

Go Behind the Scenes of USC Kaufman’s Virtual Dance Festival

Now more than ever, the students of USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance are embodying their program's vision: "The New Movement."

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, the dance world continues to be faced with unprecedented challenges, but USC Kaufman's faculty and BFA students haven't shied away from them. While many schools have had to cancel events or scale them back to live-from-my-living-room streams, USC Kaufman has embraced the situation and taken on impressive endeavors, like expanding its online recruitment efforts.

November 1 to 13, USC Kaufman will present A/Part To/Gather, a virtual festival featuring world premieres from esteemed faculty and guest choreographers, student dance films and much more. All semester long, they've rehearsed via Zoom from their respective student apartments or hometowns. And they haven't solely been dancing. "You have a rehearsal process, and then a filming process, and a production process of putting it together," says assistant professor of practice Jennifer McQuiston Lott of the prerecorded and professionally edited festival.

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