‘We Used to Try to F**k Kobe Up’: Former Opponent Reveals Defense Plans Against Kobe Bryant

Published 05/24/2021, 10:30 AM EDT
SAN ANTONIO – MAY 7: (FILE PHOTO) Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers bites his jersey in Game two of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at SBC Center on May 7, 2003 in San Antonio, Texas. Bryant was released on bail by the Eagle County Sheriff’s office in Colorado July 6, 2003 after posting a $25,000 bond on a felony count of sexual assault. (Photo by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)


The greats of the NBA have seen it all; the competition, pressure, and getting past the toughest defenders at clutch time. Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant was no stranger to these challenges. He touched moments of championships that the world witnessed as fans, but what went on behind the scenes was another interesting tale.

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The Black Mamba, as most fans would like to call him, was known for his game mentality, determination, and the fight he instilled into his matchups. He won awards and broke records like a daily meal. To go up against him was a special opportunity for many in the league.

Former Blazers player liked competing against Kobe

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Defending such a star player must have made for an anxious moment. But over the years, many players took up that challenge and went against one of the superstars of all time.

One of these was a former NBA player, Bonzi Wells. He played between the years 1998 and 2018 in the league for five different teams. The longest stint of his career was with Portland Trail Blazers and he often found himself on the opposite end of Kobe in various matchups.

In a conversation on ‘The Posecast’ show, Wells reminisced the days when he defended Kobe one-on-one and how exhausting that job was at the time. “We just competed, and I loved it,” he said. When we had a matchup with Kobe, I just knew that was my job. Everybody had a job and my job was to guard Kobe.”

Kobe Bryant matchups required a different game plan

Considering the skillset the Mamba possessed, it was no surprise he thrashed his defenders with it time and again. It took an entire game plan to restrict a player like Kobe Bryant. And that’s what the Trail Blazers did in the early 00s.

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“Defense is everything… We used to try to f**k Kobe up in a good way. We’re not trying to hurt him but just trying to make him feel us,” Wells told James Posey. “We felt like he was a little light and that was our only defense. He had excellent footwork, great shooter, competitive fighter off the charts, it’s only a few things that you can find against Kobe back then that were deficits. And him not being strong was one of them, so that’s what we tried to do. We tried to make our offense our best defense, and that’s in terms of posting him up, going for every rebound, running, banging him, leaning on him, just trying to do whatever you can to try to wear him down in the fourth quarter.”

 

Yes, that’s the extent to which teams went in order to stop the 5-time champion from being lethal on the court. Michael Jordan‘s opponents needed full-proof ideas to defend him, and so did Kobe’s.

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Pavni Ahuja

393 articles

Pavni Ahuja is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Housing a keen interest in sports journalism, she is pursuing an undergraduate Journalism degree from Christ University. Pavni is an ardent fan of the NBA, with prior district-level playing experience in basketball.

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