Between 2008 and 2010, one of Kobe Bryant’s toughest challenges in the NBA was going head-to-head against defensive specialist Tony Allen of the Boston Celtics. The Lakers-Celtics rivalry was reborn with both teams being the best of the best in their conferences and Bryant had his work cut out for him against arguably one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.
In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, Allen admitted Bryant is the cream of the crop in terms of players he’s faced in his career:
Kobe is the best player I’ve ever played against—period, point blank. He’s a scary sight. Back on Feb. 22, 2005—my rookie season—he fouled me out. I had six fouls in eight minutes.
During their battles over the years, Bryant and Allen split championships won in NBA Finals appearances between the Lakers and Celtics. Kobe got the last laugh winning the NBA title against Boston in 2010, but Allen definitely didn’t make it easy for one of the best players of all-time to win his fifth ring and is proud of that fact, via Zwerling:
Luckily in the 2010 Finals, I did a good job of making things difficult for Kobe, making him shoot close to 30 shots per game and holding him to 21 points in one game. While the Lakers won Game 7, I felt good after that, after going against Paul every day in practice and then getting the opportunity to stick Kobe for the national championship. I told myself, No matter what the name is, I’m going to take pride in defense and I’m going to try to be the best at it. I haven’t looked back since.
Bryant has praised Allen’s work ethic and effort in the past. Kobe recently said Allen never asks for help defensively and is always up for the challenge of guarding elite players in the league.
After losing to Kobe’s Lakers back in 2010, Allen headed elsewhere in NBA free agency signing with the Memphis Grizzlies on a three-year deal. Playing alongside Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, Allen has helped turn the Grizzlies into one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Memphis is currently three games back of the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors. Allen has a decent shot at winning a second NBA title if Gasol and company are able to put it together and make a run in the playoffs this season.
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