In his career, Kobe Bryant has faced some of the best on-ball defenders in NBA history. But there was one player who could stop him cold–Michael Jordan.
Kobe Bryant was one of the most dominant players in NBA history. He is known for his ability to score at will and dominate on-ball defenders. However, he faced some of the best defensive players of all time during his career.
Kobe Bryant is considered as one of the best ten players in NBA history. Kobe Bryant, the man who came closest to Michael Jordan, led the Lakers to five NBA titles and two Finals MVP awards. Kobe’s success was mostly due to his scoring ability, which enabled him to become one of the most clutch players in NBA history.
But how did Kobe Bryant perform against some of the league’s greatest defenders? Kobe Bryant was a shooting guard, which meant he was frequently pitted against the greatest perimeter defender every night. It’s time to see how Kobe Bryant stacked up against the greatest perimeter defenders of his time.
Andrei Kirilenko vs. Kobe Bryant – (27 Games)
30.6 PPG – 5.0 RPG – 4.7 APG – 48.4 FG percent – 45.3 3PT percent – 60.2 TS percent – 48.4 FG percent – 45.3 3PT percent
In his heyday, Andrei Kirilenko was a very effective player, particularly on defense. The 6’9″ Russian was an All-Star and All-Defensive Team member with the length and power to trouble the league’s top scorers. He was even a shot-blocking forward who, on occasion, outplayed Kobe. Bryant, on the other hand, felt heated anytime he saw Kirilenko’s face.
Against the Russian, Bryant averaged over 30 points a game on over 50% shooting while keeping his entire stat line close to his career norm. The Black Mamba spent the most of his career with the playoff-bound Utah Jazz, despite often losing to Kobe and the Lakers.
Raja Bell vs. Kobe Bryant (28 Games)
44.4 FG percent – 35.2 3PT percent – 55.3 TS percent – 28.8 PPG – 5.4 RPG – 4.4 APG – 44.4 FG percent – 35.2 3PT percent – 55.3 TS percent
On the court, Kobe and Raja Bell were practically adversaries since each player tried everything possible to get an edge over the other. Kobe was aware that he was more skilled than Bell and that he could score against him at any moment, but he also recognized that it would be difficult.
Bell, a 6’5″ shooting guard, gave up some size versus Bryant but compensated with exceptional defensive awareness. Bell excelled at on-ball defense, and even when that was his forte, Bryant outperformed him with a high level of efficiency. Bell, on the other hand, was a competitive player who would become frustrated when Kobe got the best of him. Bell could not outperform Battier or Bowen in 28 games, since Kobe had higher numbers than his career average.
Shane Battier vs. Kobe Bryant (37 Games)
43.3 FG percent – 33.0 3PT percent – 52.8 TS percent – 28.6 PPG – 5.2 RPG – 5.0 APG – 43.3 FG percent – 33.0 3PT percent – 52.8 TS percent
As a member of the Houston Rockets, Shane Battier had many matchups with Kobe Bryant. Battier was a 6’8″ small forward who could also play shooting guard, which is why he was the player on this list who guarded Kobe the most.
Battier was not a nasty defender, instead relying on his size and upper body power to restrict where Bryant could move on the court. Battier was a smart player who understood Bryant’s preferred places on the court, so he performed an excellent job in that respect. Despite this, Kobe put up fantastic statistics that were close to his career average stat line. Even more significantly, Kobe felt Battier couldn’t defend him, as shown by a self-alley oop in the 2009 Playoffs.
Ron Artest vs. Kobe Bryant (20 Games)
27.6 PPG – 5.7 RPG – 6.1 APG – 48.1 FG percent – 40.8 3PT percent – 58.1 TS percent – 48.1 FG percent – 40.8 3PT percent – 58.1 TS percent
If you’re a fan of NBA basketball, you’ve seen Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest fight it out. On defense, Ron Artest was a fearsome presence because, at 6’6″ and 260 pounds, he was not just a force to be reckoned with, but also a superb defender. Artest was known for his aggressiveness and anger. He was one of the league’s most physically powerful players (fans and players alike).
But Kobe always rose to the occasion, and he did it again against Ron Artest. Despite Artest’s eagerness to get in Kobe’s face, Bryant put up almost 28 points per game on extremely good shooting percentages while coming out on top 15 times.
Many players, including LeBron James, performed below their best against Artest because he was so excellent on defense (3-10 W-L record). Even so, when he established a relationship with Artest to win the 2010 NBA championship with the Lakers, Kobe believed in the adage “keep your friends near but your enemies closer.”
Bruce Bowen vs. Kobe Bryant (32 Games)
42.6 FG percent – 27.8 3PT percent – 50.4 TS percent – 26.3 PPG – 6.1 RPG – 3.7 APG – 42.6 FG percent – 27.8 3PT percent –
Because Bowen was the defensive stopper for the San Antonio Spurs for years, the fights between Kobe Bryant and Bruce Bowen were legendary. Bowen was 6’7″ and had a lot of length, giving him the greatest choice for guarding Kobe Bryant’s slithery moves.
Bowen was also known as a sleazy defender who would do every trick in the book to keep Bryant from scoring easy points. Of course, The Black Mamba loved the challenge and put up impressive statistics against one of San Antonio’s greatest defenders. Bowen was able to discourage Bryant just enough to be a nuisance whether it was clean or not, based on Kobe’s effectiveness.
Tony Allen vs. Kobe Bryant (24 Games)
25.5 PPG – 5.3 RPG – 4.4 APG – 42.0 FG percent – 28.7 3PT percent – 52.2 TS percent – 42.0 FG percent – 28.7 3PT percent – 52.2 TS percent
Tony Allen may be the greatest defender Kobe Bryant has ever faced, and it is well known that Bryant looked forward to these matchups as a chance to put his talents to the test. Allen was a 6’4″ shooting guard with tremendous strength and athleticism. Bryant possessed fast feet and lateral agility, so he had to pull off a variety of moves and counter-moves to get free.
Allen was also skilled at evading Kobe’s pump fakes and would make every effort to annoy him. That’s why Allen was named to six All-Defensive Teams despite never averaging more than 30 minutes per game on any club and frequently going unnoticed as a backup player. Allen may be the greatest Kobe defender ever, based on Kobe’s terrible three-point shooting statistics. However, Bryant still managed to score over 30 points in eight of his nine matchups with Allen, including two games in which he scored 40 points or more.
Andre Iguodala vs. Kobe Bryant (22 Games)
24.6 PPG – 5.7 RPG – 4.6 APG – 43.5 FG percent – 34.7 3PT percent – 52.7 TS percent 24.6 PPG – 5.7 RPG – 4.6 APG – 43.5 FG percent – 34.7 3PT percent – 52.7 TS percent
Andre Iguodala, the former Finals MVP, was a good scorer and athleticism in his peak, but he will always be remembered for his defense. Iggy, who stood 6’6″ and weighed 215 pounds, could handle Bryant’s size as well as his quickness. Iguodala has the athleticism to match Bryant’s quick dribble and challenge his fadeaway shots.
Iguodala did a good job against Bryant overall. Apart from his 48-point outburst against Iggy in 2006, Kobe averaged around his career averages versus Iggy and was not out of this world amazing. Iggy only allowed Bryant to score 40 points or more three times in total, which isn’t terrible given they faced each other 22 times.
Tayshaun Prince vs. Kobe Bryant (24 Games)
42.6 FG percent – 37.2 3PT percent – 55.2 TS percent – 24.2 PPG – 5.0 RPG – 4.8 APG – 42.6 PPG – 5.0 RPG – 4.8 APG – 42.6 PPG – 5.0 RPG – 4.8 APG – 42.6 PPG –
Prince was a lockdown defender at 6’9″ with a 7’2″ wingspan, making him one of the most underappreciated defensive players of his era. Prince was a defensive mainstay for the Detroit Pistons when they won the NBA championship in 2004, a series in which Kobe Bryant failed to make an impression in the Finals. Tayshaun Prince deserves a lot of credit for it in many ways. Kobe only scored 22.6 points per game in a five-game series defeat to the Pistons, shooting a dismal 38.1 percent from the field and 17.4 percent from three.
Shaquille O’Neal (63.1 percent) was the only player in the series who averaged at least 10 minutes per game and shot more than 40% from the field. The Pistons had a strong defensive squad, but Prince was the guy on the perimeter and did a good job in general against Kobe. Prince was a superb defensive defender against Kobe because of his chase-down blocks and extended arms.
Since Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant has been the greatest scorer.
When you look at how Kobe fared against some of the greatest defenders in the NBA during his time, it’s obvious he was up to the task. Bryant, unlike other stars who may dislike playing against nasty players or strong defenders, never grumbled and always put forth his best effort. As a result, he is rated fourth all-time in total points scored, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and LeBron James, who all made the list due to their extraordinary longevity. Over the course of his Hall of Fame career, Bryant averaged 25.0 points per game and won two scoring championships.
Outside of Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant is the best scorer in NBA history, based on a pure offensive talent that includes moves and counter-moves. Kareem had the sky-hook and could score easily since he was 7 feet tall, but Kobe couldn’t depend on being a big center or even having enormous hands like Michael Jordan. Instead, Kobe Bryant utilized the pump-fake better than any other player in NBA history, and he had the greatest footwork outside of Hakeem Olajuwon.
Bryant also scored 81 points in a single game, a record that even today’s stars can’t match in an age where defense is less important and three-pointers are more common. Even Michael Jordan couldn’t do it, so it’s difficult to think any athlete could do it (career-high of 69 points). Bryant has scored 60 or more points six times, second only to Wilt Chamberlain, and 50 or more points 25 times, third only to Wilt Chamberlain (behind Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan). Bryant is the NBA’s second-greatest scorer, and the fact that these eight elite defensive players were unable to keep Bryant from scoring less than 24 points per game against them is just another reason.
A1Hoopz deserves credit for the data and the concept.
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