Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala is widely viewed as one of the top on-ball defenders in the NBA and one of the best overall defenders of the last 15 years.
Iguodala won last season’s NBA Finals MVP Award largely due to his defensive job on LeBron James and in the Warriors’ must-win Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night, Iguodala again came up huge with multiple clutch plays against both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
However, Iguodala doesn’t consider either of those his best defensive performance as he revealed that he considers holding down Kobe Bryant back in 2005 as his top performance via Marcus Thompson of The Mercury News:
“Kobe in his prime,” Iguodala said while hiding from the throng of reporters, preferring his teammates get the attention after Game 6.
Iguodala, then in his second season with Philadelphia, drew the assignment of checking Kobe Bryant. Young and spry, at the peak of his athleticism, Iguodala was all over the Lakers star in the 76ers’ win.
Kobe finished with 17 points on 7-for-27 shooting, a big deal since he is from Philly.
Following that game, then Lakers coach Phil Jackson said it was the best he had ever seen anyone defend Kobe. Of course, that night didn’t sit well with Kobe, who exacted his revenge when the Sixers visited Los Angeles later that year:
When the 76ers came to Los Angeles later that 2005-06 season, Kobe came by the Philadelphia locker room. Iguodala wasn’t in there, but Kobe left a message.
“Tell Andre 50 tonight,” Iguodala said, recalling the message relayed to him. “You know how much he got — 48.”
Considering Iguodala still held Kobe below what he predicted, some might consider that an accomplishment. It just goes to show the level that Kobe was at during that time. It’s also yet another example of Kobe aiming to prove his greatness and not allowing any player to get the best of him without getting him back.
Very few players in the NBA are built like Kobe and now that he is out of the NBA for good, we won’t be hearing many more stories like this. Nonetheless, the fact that Iguodala, having made such major defensive plays on the biggest stages of the NBA, still considers stopping Kobe his best defensive performance shows the high regard in which players hold him.