Kobe made an appearance on the Dan Patrick show today, and spent a good deal of time talking about his favorite subject: the challenge of locking down the opponent’s best player.
Bryant said that he’s really into the challenge of shutting down opposing stars. Dan asked Kobe to share what he tries to do against these guys. “I’m not giving away my strategies,” Kobe said. But Kobe did say make sure you don’t give them easy looks and let them get into a rhythm.
We’ve definitely heard this from Kobe before. Before facing off against Venezuela in international competition, Mamba basically locked himself in a room with tapes of Greivis Vasquez so that he’d know what the young guard would do before he did it. But Kobe’s emphasis on strapping up on D is still a fairly new mission.
I’m not sure when he took this personal oath to menace the opposition’s best player. It’s almost as though after proving that he was the most capable scorer in the League, he sought out another way to dominate and demoralize his competition. It’s embarrassing to get scored on, but it’s truly frustrating to be held in check. Thus, stopping someone from getting theirs is in many ways a greater moral victory than hanging 30-plus on them.
For the last six months, we’ve really only seen the smiling, composed, polished Kobe. Aside from a back-and-forth game against Spain, the U.S. had a fairly easy path to gold. No need for the tiger to come out of its cage there. Since then, he’s led the Lakers to a 35-8 record – the best in the West since day one. That makes it much easier to keep the fire under control. But no matter what Kobe says during post-game interviews, he still seems like he’s within arms reach of snapping and bringing back talks of how you’ve either got to get on the train or get run the fuck over.
Even if he doesn’t show it by pulling his jersey aside and pounding on his heart like he did a couple years back, Kobe is still one of the most intense competitors in the game. But in the grown-man phase of his career, that intensity pumps through his veins without needing to gesticulate and demonstrate wildly.
Like Kobe ’09, that quiet ember burns inside both Tim Duncan and Chris Paul. They’re undoubtedly intense competitors, but they don’t show it like Kevin Garnett or even Chris Bosh does.
Who do you think is the most intense competitor in the NBA today?