KOBE Bryant is in no mood for gifts or retirement ceremonies. But the LA Lakers’ superstar is in a giving mood, opening up more than ever since announcing that he is retiring at the end of this NBA season.
In an interview with Ernie Johnson aired on TNT’s Inside the NBA, Bryant dished plenty of nuggets about his illustrious career. What strikes the most is the Black Mamba’s recognition of the player who came closest to being the real “Kobe Stopper.”
“The player I had the most trouble with, individually, was Tony Allen. Always,” Bryant said.
Bryant faced Allen, the three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member, twice in the NBA Finals (2008, 2010) back when the latter was still with the Boston Celtics. Bryant, who shot 48 percent and 46% in the Lakers’ 2008 and 2010 playoff runs, respectively, saw his shooting accuracy drop to 40.5% in the two Finals matchups against Allen and the Celtics. (Stats via nba.com and basketball-reference.com)
Bryant also mentioned Bruce Bowen, Raja Bell, and Ruben Patterson among the select few that made life on the basketball court more difficult than usual for the future Hall of Famer. But Allen stood out the most because he, “played one-on-one defense. He never funneled me anywhere. His job was to stay in front of me and just hound me the entire game,” Bryant explained.
A closer look at the stats backs up Bryant’s revelation. In the regular season, Bryant shoots 45% from the floor in his 20-year career. Among the four defenders, Allen is the most successful in bringing that efficiency down to 42.2%. In the playoffs, the Laker guard is a 44.8% shooter. Allen ranks second to Patterson in hurting Bryant’s shooting clip: 38.7% when guarded by Allen; 35.3% when defended by Patterson. One thing that works in Allen’s favor over Patterson: Allen’s team won one of two playoffs series against Bryant’s Lakers; Patterson’s team was 0 for 2. (Stats from hoopshype.com and basketball-reference.com)
Granted, Allen only averaged 6.33 minutes in the three games he played in the 2008 NBA Finals, and just 14.7 minutes in all seven games in 2010, but since moving to a starting role with Memphis in 2011, Allen’s Grizzlies have played Bryant’s Lakers 14 times, with Memphis holding an 8-6 edge and Bryant shooting at a 42.3% clip from the floor. And from Bryant’s explanation, the current Memphis Grizzlies guard gave the Mamba hell every second they were together on the court.
Check out the interview below for more of Bryant’s gems: