Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant both said that guarding the Warriors’ Draymond Green was the toughest defender they’ve ever faced. Green is a physical beast. He’s in the top 10 in the league in charges drawn. He’s a rebounder and shot blocker, which are two things every team covets. But what about his defense? Could he be one of the toughest defenders in the game to stop? Or is there someone else out there with a stronger claim?
Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant both have a lot of respect for the grind ‘n’ bruise defense. Kobe’s said that the toughest defender he ever faced was the same guy that destroyed him in the first half of a game. In a recent interview, Durant said that the toughest defender he’s ever faced was DeMarcus Cousins.The late Kobe Bryant is one of the best scorers in NBA history. He is fourth on the all-time scoring list with 33,643 points. Kevin Durant, still active, moves up the list and has scored nearly 24,000 points in his career. Durant is in the top five all-time scoring players, averaging 27.0 points per game. Bryant was an ideal candidate for the Hall of Fame, and so will Durant once he can be inducted.
They were completely different as players. Bryant was a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who attacked the basket as a junior, and became a jump shooter later in his career. Durant, who refuses to be labeled a seven-footer, came into the league with a silky J and adopted an aggressive ball-handling style as he matured.
But despite their physical differences, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant agree on one thing. They each named the same player as the toughest defender they ever faced.
Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons in the NBA, from 1996 to 2016. He was voted NBA MVP for the 2007-08 season, won two NBA Finals MVP awards, was part of five NBA championships, was a member of 12 defensive teams and participated in 15 NBA tournaments. He was also a two-time top scorer in the NBA, which meant he often had to go up against the opponent’s best perimeter defenders.
His highlight came in January 2006, when he scored 81 points in a game against the Toronto Raptors. That’s the second-highest total in NBA history, behind Wilt Chamberlain’s legendary 100-point performance in 1962.
Fortunately for Kobe, he didn’t have to beat a specific player to score those 81 points. In his final season in the NBA, the Lakers legend revealed who he had the most trouble with. Bryant was impressed enough to give Tony Allen a parting gift.
The signed sneakers read: For Tony, the best defender I ever met!
Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant took different paths to become the greatest NBA scorers of all time. But both agree that the toughest defender they have ever faced is green master Tony Allen himself. | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Tony Allen was selected in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Boston Celtics and was an emerging player for the Celtics in the 2006-07 season, until a second major knee injury in as many years sidelined him. He came back and won the championship ring against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in 2008. But his seven years with the Memphis Grizzlies defined Allen’s career.
Allen not only embodied the grit-‘n’-grind mentality of the Grizzlies, he coined the term. The fact that it happened by blowing up a teammate will go down in history. Displeased that his teammate missed the game with what Allen thought was a minor injury, he pulled Rudy Gay in a postgame interview, which he revealed in a 2017 interview with Mass Live.
I was so mad that Rudy didn’t play ….. I finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and about five steals. Remember, I didn’t play more than 22 games, and that’s just to let you know what kind of shape I was in. Durant scored about 35 points, but they lost. When I was interviewed, the first thing I said was: It’s just a heart. Scratching and rattling.
That’s how the term originated in Memphis. I was still upset. It was actually a reference to Rudy Gay. But today he is my husband, I have forgiven him for that. But yeah, that’s where it all started in Memphis.
Kobe Bryant wasn’t the only superstar admired by Allen’s defense. Kevin Durant has also struggled with this problem for years.
Allen’s work has not gone unnoticed. In seven seasons with the Grizzlies, he was a first-team defender six times, including three times on the first team. Allen spent his final season with the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2017-18 season.
When Kevin Durant played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, he scored 24 times in the regular season and another 19 times in the playoffs for Tony Allen. Durant is shooting 49.4 percent in his career and 38.4 percent from 3-point range.
Allen’s impact was palpable. In the regular season, Durant shot 47.9% from the field against Allen and only 33.1% from long range. But in the playoffs, those numbers were 43.8% and 33.3%, respectively.
During an appearance on the Knuckleheads podcast in 2019, Durant explained that while Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker were the best defenders against him at the time, he generally had other options.
Tony Allen from Chicago!
Allen will probably never make it to the Hall of Fame. He has never been a star and has only scored once in 14 seasons.
But when two great scorers like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant call you the best defender they’ve ever faced, your legacy is secure.
Statistics provided by Basketball-Reference.
COMPARED TO: Chris Paul lives off a key basketball lesson Kobe Bryant taught years ago
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