‘Referee Might Not Even See’: Former NBA Champion Reveals How Tough It Was to Guard Lakers’ Kobe Bryant

Published 05/16/2021, 1:30 AM EDT
Lakers Kobe Bryant comes in for a landing as he celebrates his basket late in the 4th qaurter against the Nuggets in Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs at the Pepsi Center in Denver Monday April 28, 2008. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


Kobe Bryant was a crowd puller who would show up even when injured just so the fans got their tickets’ worth. Even crazier, no one could know he was playing under pain unless he or his physio revealed something post the games. He was a blessing for the Lakers and a curse for all of his rivals. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

The Black Mamba was 6’6” in his physicality but he was 60’60” in his stature, and his influence inside the restricted area was proof. Who better than those braveheart defenders to explain what it was like to stop Kobe from scoring?

Tony Allen shared his honest experience 

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

Tony played six seasons with the Celtics during those crazy days of their brutal rivalry with the Lakers. He would play the same position as Kobe’s and mostly find himself defending the Mamba inside the paint. 

Kobe Bryant walks as the Celtics celebrate the 2008 championship win at the TD Banknorth Center. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

In a recent interview, the retired champion revealed his experience playing man-to-man against Kobe. The 39-YO expressed, “When I speak of Mr. Bean, I always look at the times that he shot the ball. It never was a shot that he didn’t think he was going to hit. He stayed in the seek and displayed the mamba mentality. And just knowing to not get discouraged.” 

He then explained how Kobe would get deadly with his head fakes and weird turnarounds almost impossible to guard. The Grindfather would mostly hope for Kobe to make an error because he would have a hard time blocking his shots.

Just as the 6’4” guard added, “A lot of guys have battled with him… like he said in the interview, when he spoke so highly, he said, ‘help, help, help’. I’m explaining that to y’all… when Kobe get in & get into the post, he hits you with his elbow and his shoulder, it’s real quick, the referee might not even see it. The shoulder gets anywhere near your stomach. You might get a tomato chest because I’m telling you going into his move and I noticed that. So what that did was, made me go into the weight room and do a hundred thousand situps and more weight lifting, getting stronger. That was one aspect of me trying to guard him in my head. I knew sure that I have to be physical.”

Read AlsoMichael Jordan Opens Up About Inducting Kobe Bryant to the Hall of Fame

The rivalry with the Celtics that shaped a new Kobe Bryant

After lifting the title in 2002, the Lakers had a title drought for six straight years, and the Black Mamba did not like any of it. At one point, he was so sick of his team that he almost wanted to opt out of the Lakers. However, he again locked in after Pau Gasol’s arrival. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

Still, the reinvented Lakers failed against the Big Three of Doc Rivers’ 2008 Celtics, losing the finals 2-4. That was the time when a frustrated Kobe even schooled his teammate and friend Pau for lacking the brutal drive. Things between the C’s and the Lake Show were really nasty, and they knew that another final would soon knock on the door.

As Tony Allen added, “Every time I played, never spoke a word to him, get so clever and competitive at the time… I knew he was going to get the ball. That’s when he would start speaking to Pau (Gasol) in Spanish, setting up the back door.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

The time came in 2010 when the Lakers bounced back from a 2-3 deficit to lift their 16th franchise title. That marked Kobe’s last shot at the championship and also Tony’s last season with the Greens.

Which other event in Kobe’s playing life do you think defined him? Help us know in the comments.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE :

ADVERTISEMENT

Sourabh Singh

1630 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT