Kobe Bryant entered the NBA in 1996, and as a result he’s faced two or possibly even three generations’ worth of defenders. Some, like Dwyane Wade, Reggie Miller or Ray Allen, have made life hell on Kobe by making him work on both ends of the ball. Others, like Bruce Bowen, Shane Battier, Thabo Sefolosha, and Doug Christie, are just out there to focus on Bryant’s shot-making and little else. One player, former SuperSonics and Blazers forward Ruben Patterson, even designated himself “the Kobe Stopper,” despite little evidence to support as much.
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One player, however, stands out from the pack as the guy that made life miserable the most for Kobe Bryant. Just ask the soon-to-be retired Laker legend himself, in his note to Memphis swingman Tony Allen from Friday night (via SB Nation):
"To Tony, The best defender I ever faced!"
Now, “miserable” is a relative term. Kobe’s teams frequently got the better of Celtic and Grizzlies outfits featuring Tony Allen as the lead defensive dog, but Allen got in his licks. And, as Tony moved on to Memphis and grew greater respect from the NBA’s refs, he was allowed a bit more leeway with the future Hall of Famer when it came to bodying up on the Kobester.
Bryant sat out Friday night’s game against the Grizzlies, but that had less to do with being frightened by Allen’s presence and just about everything to do from returning from a three-game Midwestern road trip. Allen, in fact, did not play for the third straight game in Memphis’ 112-95 win, nursing a sore knee.
Kobe has a sore everything, but still worked in Wednesday’s loss to the Grizzlies, though he missed nine of 14 shots. NBA and Laker fans are just going to have to get used to the fact that Bryant – who hasn’t finished a season healthy and active since 2012 – is going to sit out several home contests, while suiting up the road games as the league continues to fete him during his final season.
Allen, at age 34, sadly will also have his farewell tour come in the next few seasons. It was nice to see Kobe hand him his own retirement gift a few years too early.
(It would be much nicer to see these to go at it again, one final time, when the Grizzlies come back to Los Angeles on March 22. Kobe’s already made an attempt, via gifts, to encourage Allen to lighten up on him; but we doubt Tony has that in him.)
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