"Kobe-stopper." For Kobe Bryant's prime with the Los Angeles Lakers it was a player 29 other NBA teams searched for and a term probably used too liberally. With Bryant on an off-day in Atlanta before facing off against the Hawks on Friday, Ernie Johnson of TNT's "Inside the NBA" sat down with the retiring superstar and asked him which player he would consider "the Kobe-Stopper."
"The player I always had the most trouble with individually was Tony Allen. Always." Bryant said, before citing Bruce Bowen, Raja Bell, and Ruben Patterson as other players who gave him trouble. In Kobe's eyes, however, Allen stands (or more accurately, laterally slides) without peer.
"Tony Allen he played one on one defense. He never funneled me anywhere. His job was just to stay in front of me and just hound me the entire game, and he did."
This is not the first time Bryant has cited Allen as his biggest challenge. In November of 2014 before breaking his knee in a collision with Allen, Kobe praised him to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
"I know what to do and he knows how to guard me," Bryant said. "It's just a matter of who can get the better of who consistently. There will be possessions where he does a phenomenal job. There will be possessions where I abuse him. It's a fun battle to see."
"He's fundamentally sound defensively and he plays harder than everybody else defensively," Bryant said. "He has a competitive desire to compete individually. That's very uncommon. Most defensive players I face want help all the time. I've never heard him ask for help. He likes taking the challenge."
The respect from Allen, who called former teammate Ed Davis in the 2014-15 preseason to ask about how Bryant looked, is mutual. "He does everything. There's nothing he can't do,"the man known as "the Grindfather" told Medina. "It just shows you he's a tough-minded guy. You have to respect that."
If Bryant remains healthy, he will get four more cracks at Allen's Memphis Grizzlies, including later this month when the Lakers will travel to "the Grindhouse" for a showdown on December 27th.
All quotes not specifically cited transcribed via TNT's "Inside the NBA"