Kobe Bryant is regarded as one of the top-10 players who ever played the game. The man who came closest to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant won five NBA championships and 2 Finals MVPs with the Lakers. The main reason behind Kobe's success was his scoring ability, which in turn allowed him to become one of the most clutch players in NBA history.
But how did Kobe Bryant fare against the best defenders in the NBA? Kobe Bryant played the shooting guard position which means he often faced the best perimeter defender every single night. It is time to discover how Kobe Bryant fared against the 8 best perimeter defenders of his era.
Kobe Bryant vs. Andrei Kirilenko - (27 Games)
30.6 PPG - 5.0 RPG - 4.7 APG - 48.4 FG% - 45.3 3PT% - 60.2 TS%
Andrei Kirilenko was a very impactful player in his prime, especially on defense. The 6’9” Russian was an All-Star and All-Defensive Team member, who had a mix of length and strength to bother the best scorers in the league. He was even a shot-blocking forward who got the better of Kobe on some occasions. But the majority of the time, Bryant got hot whenever he saw Kirilenko’s face.
Bryant averaged over 30 PPG on near 50% shooting against the Russian while keeping his overall stat line close to his career average. The Black Mamba played most of his career with the playoff-contending Utah Jazz, although they would often be on the losing end of Kobe and the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant vs. Raja Bell (28 Games)
28.8 PPG - 5.4 RPG - 4.4 APG - 44.4 FG% - 35.2 3PT% - 55.3 TS%
Kobe and Raja Bell were almost enemies on the court because each player did everything they could to get an advantage over one another. Kobe knew he was more talented than Bell and could score against him anytime, but he also knew it would not be easy.
Bell was a 6’5” shooting guard who gave up some size against Bryant but made up for it with very high defensive awareness. Bell was great at sticking with on-ball defense and even when that was his specialty, Bryant had great success against him with solid efficiency. But Bell was also a competitive player, showing frustration whenever Kobe was getting the better of him. In 28 games, Bell could not do a better job than Battier or Bowen as Kobe had better stats than his career average.
Kobe Bryant vs. Shane Battier (37 Games)
28.6 PPG - 5.2 RPG - 5.0 APG - 43.3 FG% - 33.0 3PT% - 52.8 TS%
Shane Battier had countless showdowns against Kobe Bryant, mainly as a member of the Houston Rockets. Battier was a 6’8” small forward who could cover the shooting guard position, which is why he was the man who defended Kobe the most on this list.
Battier was not a dirty defender, rather relied on his length and upper body strength to dictate where Bryant could go on the floor. Battier was very intelligent and knew Bryant’s favorite spots on the floor, so he did a great job in that regard. Still, Kobe put up spectacular numbers which hovered around his career average stat line. Even more importantly, Kobe truly believed Battier could not guard him and a self-alley oop in the 2009 Playoffs could be proof of that.
Kobe Bryant vs. Ron Artest (20 Games)
27.6 PPG - 5.7 RPG - 6.1 APG - 48.1 FG% - 40.8 3PT% - 58.1 TS%
If you love NBA basketball, you loved the battles between Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest. Ron Artest was an intimidating force on defense because at 6’6” and 260 lbs, he was not only a powerhouse but a gifted defender. Artest was one of the most physically strong players in the league and was notorious for his temper and competitiveness (fans and players alike).
But Kobe always rose to the most difficult challenges and did the same against Ron Artest. Bryant put up nearly 28 PPG on very solid shooting percentages while coming on top 15 times, despite Artest’s willingness to get in Kobe’s face.
Artest was so good on defense, that many players played below their best against him including LeBron James (3-10 W-L record). Still, Kobe believed in the mantra “keep your friends close but your enemies closer” as he formed a partnership with Artest to win the 2010 NBA title together with the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant vs. Bruce Bowen (32 Games)
26.3 PPG - 6.1 RPG - 3.7 APG - 42.6 FG% - 27.8 3PT% - 50.4 TS%
The battles between Kobe Bryant and Bruce Bowen were legendary because Bowen was the defensive stopper for the San Antonio Spurs for years. Bowen was 6’7” and had tremendous length, making him the best possible option for defending the slithery Kobe Bryant.
Bowen was also considered a dirty defender, using any tactic in the book to deter Bryant from getting easy points. Of course, The Black Mamba relished the competition and put up solid numbers against one of the best defenders in San Antonio’s history. But looking at Kobe’s efficiency, Bowen was able to deter Bryant just enough and be a pest whether it was clean or not.
Kobe Bryant vs. Tony Allen (24 Games)
25.5 PPG - 5.3 RPG - 4.4 APG - 42.0 FG% - 28.7 3PT% - 52.2 TS%
Tony Allen might be the best defender that Kobe Bryant ever faced, and it is widely known that Bryant relished these encounters as a test of his skills. Allen was a 6’4” shooting guard, but he was incredibly strong and athletic. He had quick feet and lateral quickness, which meant Bryant had to pull out a host of moves and counter-moves to free himself.
Allen was also adept at avoiding Kobe’s pump fakes and would try his best to be an irritant. That is why Allen made 6 All-Defensive Teams despite never averaging 30 MPG on any team and often flying under the radar as a role player. Based on Kobe’s poor three-point shooting percentages, Allen might be the best Kobe defender ever. But that might not be saying much because Bryant still scored over 30 Points in 8 separate meetings against Allen which included 2 40+ point games.
Kobe Bryant vs. Andre Iguodala (22 Games)
24.6 PPG - 5.7 RPG - 4.6 APG - 43.5 FG% - 34.7 3PT% - 52.7 TS%
Former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala was a solid scorer and athlete in his prime, but he will be always known for his defense. Iggy was 6’6” at a muscular 215 lbs, and could handle the physicality and also speed that Bryant offered. Iguodala was athletic enough to keep up with Bryant’s sharp dribbling and also contest his fadeaway jumpers.
Overall, Iguodala did a decent job against Bryant. Kobe averaged just around his career numbers against Iggy and was not out worldly spectacular as he always was beside his 48-point explosion against Iggy in 2006. In total, Iggy still only allowed 40 or more points from Bryant 3 times which is not bad considering they played each other 22 times.
Kobe Bryant vs. Tayshaun Prince (24 Games)
24.2 PPG - 5.0 RPG - 4.8 APG - 42.6 FG% - 37.2 3PT% - 55.2 TS%
Tayshaun Prince is one of the most underrated defensive players of his time because at 6’9” with a 7’2” wingspan, Prince was a lockdown defender. Prince was famously the perimeter defensive stalwart for the Detroit Pistons that won the NBA title in 2004, a series in which Kobe struggled to make an impact in the Finals. In many ways, Tayshaun Prince deserves a lot of credit for that. In the 5-game series loss against the Pistons, Kobe only averaged 22.6 PPG on a putrid 38.1% shooting from the field and 17.4% from three.
Shaquille O’Neal (63.1%) was the only player who played at least 10 MPG who shot above 40% from the field in that series. The Pistons were a dominant defensive team, but Prince was the man on the perimeter and did a solid job against Kobe overall. With his chase-down blocks and long arms, Prince was a great defensive player that Kobe played against.
Kobe Bryant Is The Greatest Scorer Since Michael Jordan
Seeing how Kobe performed against the best defenders in the NBA during his time, it is clear the Lakers superstar rose to the occasion. Unlike other stars who might detest playing against dirty players or stout defenders, Bryant never complained and always went to work. That is why he is ranked 4th all-time in total points scored behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and LeBron James who were all on the list due to extreme longevity. Bryant holds a career average of 25.0 PPG and owns 2 scoring titles over his Hall of Fame career.
Based on a pure offensive skillset which includes moves and counter-moves, Kobe Bryant is the greatest scorer in NBA history outside of Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem had the sky-hook and was able to score easy points thanks to being 7-foot tall, but Kobe could not rely on being a massive center or even having large hands like Michael Jordan. Instead, Kobe used the pump-fake better than any player ever and had the best footwork in NBA history outside of Hakeem Olajuwon.
Bryant also scored 81 points in a single game, a feat which even modern-day players cannot come close to in an era with little defense and more three-pointers. It is hard to believe any player could accomplish that feat because even Michael Jordan could not do it (career-high of 69 points). Bryant has scored 60 or more points 6 separate times which is second-most behind Wilt Chamberlain and scored 50 or more points 25 times which is third (behind Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan). Bryant is the second-greatest scorer in NBA history and the fact that these 8 superstar defensive players could not stop Bryant from averaging under 24 PPG against them is yet another reason why.
Credit for the stats and idea: A1Hoopz