It’s necessary to preface any analysis of a list like this by keeping in mind that a) it’s purely subjective, and b) he probably came up with it on the spot. That said, it’s hard not to notice some glaring omissions on Kobe Bryant‘s list of the top players he’s played against during his illustrious 20-year career.
Let’s start with who actually appears on the list before we get to the debatable omissions. Clyde Drexler is a curious choice by almost any measure. He was well past prime before Kobe ever entered his own, and the pair never faced one another in any meaningful games. The same goes for Hakeem. Those choices seem purely nostalgic, although he gets a pass for Michael Jordan given his all-consuming idol worship of His Airness.
But the real question is how he can leave off Tim Duncan, arguably 1b to Kobe’s 1a of the best players of their generation. Other contemporary snubs include Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who Kobe and the Lakers met in the Finals twice in a span of three years, or any member of the ’04 Pistons squad that toppled the Lakers’ early-aught dynasty. Then of course there’s Shaquille O’Neal, whose showdowns with his former running mate after departing from Los Angeles were less than amicable for years after the fact.
You could also make a case for guys like Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, as well as a few others. And therein lies the problem with lists like these. They’re inherently flawed in any number of ways, and the whole point is exclusivity. So Kobe gets a pass for this one. As he inches toward retirement and gets bombarded with questions like this on a daily basis, it’s inevitable that a little wistful creativity might seep in and at least result in a more interesting and/or frustrating answer than what we were expecting.