Over his 19 NBA seasons, Kobe Bryant has played against some of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA. On a conference call to discuss his lengthy career on Tuesday, Bryant was asked to name the best players he has ever personally played against, and named Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Clyde Drexler.
While a few of the names (Jordan, Durant, James) were expected, there were also a couple of surprises. Notably missing from that list are Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal, among others. Duncan is the other great "winner" of Bryant's era, matching Kobe's five championships with five rings of his own, and while Shaq obviously played with Bryant, he was pretty good after leaving the Lakers as well. However, as Baxter Holmes of ESPN noted, Bryant said it was hard for him to choose five on the spot.
Kobe was also asked to list the best teams he had ever faced:
Kobe's top 5 toughest teams he played: Spurs in playoffs, Kings in early 2000's, Celtics in 08 Finals, Pistons in 04 Finals, Bulls w/ MJ— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 21, 2015
The Pistons and Celtics are obvious choices, as they were the only teams to defeat Bryant in his seven NBA Finals appearances. The Bulls are too, because Jordan, duh. Those early 2000's Kings teams played Bryant and the Lakers tough and might have been that era's dynasty had Kobe and Shaq not been around, and the Spurs with Duncan appeared in every Finals the Lakers did not from 2000 to 2010 except for when the Dallas Mavericks represented the Western Conference in 2006.
Agree or disagree, now that Bryant's career is coming to a close, it's fun to hear his opinions on the best of his era.