From Vince Carter to Shaquille O’Neal: Five NBA Players Who Were Able to School Kobe Bryant

Published 02/25/2021, 1:45 AM EST
During the National Anthem Lakers Kobe Bryant points to upward honoring Lakers owner Jerry Buss at the Staples Center Wednesday. Dr. Jerry Buss, died Monday of cancer at age 80. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


Kobe Bryant was arguably one of the best players the NBA has ever seen. The 6’6 guard was one of the most skillful stars who put everything on the line when on court.

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Throughout his 20-year-old career, Kobe faced off against many stars and absolutely dominated the field. But some players stuck out among the rest. They dared to challenge the ‘Black Mamba,’ and it was a treat to basketball fans around the world.

5 fiercest rivals of Kobe Bryant

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Raja Bell

Raja Bell was one of the best lockdown defenders in the early 2000s. Playing in a Mike D’Antoni led Phoenix Suns, Bell was an integral part of the defensive end for the free-flowing Suns.

In the 2006 playoffs, the Suns faced off against the Kobe Bryant led Lakers team in the first round. The Lakers team had an underwhelming supporting cast around Kobe, who pretty much single-handedly carried the team to a 45-37 record.

The Suns, on the other hand, were the second seed and were one of the favorites to win the title. The series was off to a great start as the Suns took game 1. The Lakers had turned it around till game 4 and tied the series, 2-2.

In game 5, the Suns were under tremendous pressure. The game was pretty intense, and it was getting very physical on the court as well. Bell, who was guarding Kobe all night, had had enough of Mamba.

In a moment of pure rage, Bell clotheslined Kobe and immediately got ejected for his actions. Bell later clarified that he was retaliating against Bryant who threw a couple of elbows at him. However, the Suns got the last laugh as they won the series in seven games.

Vince Carter

After Michael Jordan’s departure from the game, NBA was looking for the next face of the league. Enter Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant. Both the players were fierce competitors and athletically gifted like MJ.

So when it came to both of them facing each other, it was must-watch TV. Both players also guarded each other, which led to some fierce altercations over the years.

In 2005, when the New Jersey Nets faced the Lakers, Carter was massively frustrated and even had an altercation with Kobe. Moments later, Vinsanity scored a massive alley-oop on center Kwame Brown.

Ultimately, though, Kobe prevailed over Carter with a record of 20 wins in the 31 games they played against each other.

Paul Pierce

‘The Truth’ Paul Pierce was one of the best guards in the NBA. But given that he was in an era where players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant played, Pierce arguably did not get the respect he deserved.

Given that they were the stars of two of the bitters rivals in Celtics and Lakers, it was understandable why Pierce and Kobe shared a massive rivalry.

While Pierce and the Celtics outclassed the Lakers in the 2008 finals. The Big Three of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were simply head and shoulders above the Lakers.

They closed down the series in six games and won the franchise’s 17th ring in the process. ‘The Truth’ even won the Finals MVP trophy as he averaged 21.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game in the finals.

This certainly fueled Kobe and the Lakers who ultimately got their revenge in the 2010 NBA finals as they defeated the same Celtics team in a seven-game series.

Shaquille O’Neal

The duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant certainly remains one of the most iconic duos the league has ever seen. Unlike other duos, Kobe and Shaq were not the best of friends off the court but cometh business time, they were ready to smack any opponent.

The Lakers led by the dynamic duo won three championships in a row, but after that, there were rumblings of a possible feud between both the superstars.

Despite these rumors, the defending champions played with the duo for the fourth time in the Finals as they faced a heavy underdog in Detroit Pistons.

The Pistons surprised everyone as they dismantled the Lakers in five games. In the off-season, the Lakers traded Shaq to the Miami Heat and opted to keep Kobe in the team.

The Diesel was absolutely gutted with the organization’s decision. On 25 December 2004, along with a young Dwyane Wade, Shaq faced the Lakers for the first time since the trade.

The Heat ultimately trounced the Lakers 104-102, with the Diesel having a 24 point double-double. This trend continued as Shaq and the Heat dominated the East. After two years, ‘Shaq Fu’ won his fourth ring and in a way, clapped back at the Lakers who let go of him in the first place.

Kobe somewhat redeemed himself as he won two more rings and overtook Shaq’s tally of four rings.

Michael Jordan

The ultimate rival for Kobe was his own idol, Michael Jordan. Ever since Bryant was drafted, he shared multiple similarities to Jordan.

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The best matchup between two of the greatest of all time was on December 17, 1997. A sophomore Kobe Bryant was facing off against the loaded Chicago Bulls’ team.

MJ showed his class with 36 points, winning the game 104-83. But Bryant was also impressive, scoring 33 points in the game. It was just a glimpse of what Kobe could do, and over the years, he cemented his legacy as one of the best to ever play the game.

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Kobe Bryant might be one of the fiercest players in the NBA. He was intense and was willing to do anything to be successful. He might have had some cruel losses, but the ability to come back stronger made the ‘Black Mamba’ a generational talent.

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Aditya Mohapatra

701 articles

Aditya Mohapatra is a sports enthusiast who primarily covers the NBA for EssentiallySports. Having graduated in Mass Communication, he has prior experience in writing for ABP News, and has been writing for EssentiallySports since November 2020. This die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan feels that LeBron James is the best thing to have ever happened to the NBA, and will hold a healthy debate with anyone suggesting otherwise.

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