Throughout his 20-year NBA career, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant faced off with many of the top defenders the league ever saw. Players like Tony Allen, Bruce Bowen, and Doug Christie all had many battles with Kobe, but one of the toughest he ever faced was Shane Battier.
Battier was never the quickest or most athletic player, but he was extremely smart and did a great job of challenging shots and generally making life tough on Kobe. After 14 years in the league, Battier called it a career in 2014.
Battier recently spoke with Steve McPherson of Medium and reminisced about facing off with Kobe and he said that competitive side of the five-time champion was front and center:
“There was nothing like trying to guard Kobe in his prime. Watching him, I had a lot of nostalgia of the battles. And he used to be such a jerk to me. The fact that it was even insinuated that I even had somewhat of a chance to guard him, it was the most insulting thing to Kobe. So he was the biggest jerk to me. Like I’m out there spreading all these things about I’m the Kobe Stopper, I can guard him, and he just used to be the biggest jerk. Never speak to me. He’d hit my shoulder as I walked by, like he was trying to put me in my place.”
Battier would continue with how he chose to respond to Kobe’s actions, engaging in psychological warfare:
“I’m like, “Kobe, give it a rest. I don’t care.” I always tried to play up how slow I was and how unathletic I was, that I was just lucky that Kobe missed some shots. When it came to Kobe, it was a lot of false humility because I knew that would drive him even crazier. That was my version of being passive-aggressive towards Kobe, so he was trying to impose his will on me and I was trying to undermine him by being super passive. It was like the best psychological game of all time, and only he and I were in on the joke.”
Kobe’s mental toughness was always one of the best aspects of his game and one of the things that made him great. Battier trying his best to get into his head is humorous to think about because Kobe was always in the zone when on the floor.
In the end, Battier was a great foil to Kobe throughout his career and was an excellent role player who did his job very well. No one will ever be considered a Kobe stopper, but Battier had his own way of trying to do so and it served him well.
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