Metta Sandiford-Artest is one of the best defenders the NBA has seen. At the peak of his powers, he was a defensive beast that was always taking on the responsibility of guarding the best players in the league.
Artest’s best season came in 2003-04 when he became an All-Star and was named the Defensive Player Of The Year for the season. In the post-season, he and the Indiana Pacers went on to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they took eventual NBA champions Detroit Pistons to the limit before being knocked out.
But the next season, one of the most infamous incidents in NBA history occurred which changed Artest’s career forever. When the Pistons hosted the Pacers, the game ended when Artest raced into the stands to attack a fan who he thought threw a drink at him.
The brawl resulted in several suspensions including Artest’s. After Artest returned to the Pacers, his performances were no longer the same. And eventually, he felt he needed a change of scenery, and demanded a trade in 2006.
After stints with the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets, Artest joined the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers in 2009. Paired up with Kobe Bryant, he helped the Lakers win yet another championship in 2010.
Artest was the defensive enforcer for the Lakers, and cleaned up for the rest of the team, and guarded the best player in their respective series. But who does Artest think are the best defenders in NBA history.
Artest revealed in an interview that he has Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain. He noted that Kobe Bryant wasn’t as good as Michael Jordan as a defender, so he picked former Pistons’ rival, Ben Wallace, as his 5th pick.
"Bill Russell gotta be No. 1. Then, you probably gotta have Wilt [Chamberlain] with 26 defensive rebounds. [Dennis] Rodman — he’s incredible. Then, probably Michael Jordan… I don’t think Kobe is as good of a defender as Michael Jordan. I think I’ve seen Jordan differently because I looked up to Jordan’s defense. Like when I was watching Jordan, I was like, ‘His offense is incredible. I’m not even gonna try to accomplish that.' But his defense is like... I would watch him play defense. He’s just locking guys up… If I had to pick one more, Ben Wallace is an amazing defender. [Scottie] Pippen is an amazing defender but I’m not sure he’s better than Rodman or Jordan."
Artest holds all these players in high regard, especially Michael Jordan. He believes that Jordan is the only player who was capable of scoring 50 points against him. But Artest refusing to add Kobe was strange, given that Kobe is one of the most underrated defenders of all time.
Kobe shares the record for most NBA All-Defensive First Team selections with Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, and Gary Payton with 9. In fact, Mark Jackson said that Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan would do anything to get their teams the win.
But these 5 players have all been great defenders in their own right, and have been key figures to the success of their respective teams. On top of that, their performances on the defensive end changed the way the game is played forever.