Kobe Bryant is one of the most decorated players in basketball history. He is one of the greatest scorers and competitors to ever step onto the hardwood. He has five titles, two Finals MVP awards, a regular season MVP award and two Olympic Gold Medals. Kobe's path to glory is paved with players who fell victim to his talent and competitiveness. The different ways Kobe has embarrassed his contemporaries are numerous. The Black Mamba broke ankles, posterized other superstars, locked down All-Stars, and scorched defenders with his transcendent offensive repertoire. Whether it was dunking on a player, locking someone down defensively or denying a dunk that was sure to invigorate the opponent, Kobe could humiliate anyone. And boy, did he make a career out of it. The actual list of people who have been embarrassed by Bryant is probably close to a hundred, but the following is fifteen of the most notable moments in which someone was truly embarrassed by Kobe Bryant.
15 This Poor Kid
I can hardly say that this kid should be embarrassed. He played one-on-one against one of the greatest basketball players of all time. But regardless, Kobe is Kobe and it doesn't matter if you're eight or eighty, six-feet tall or four-feet tall. He's playing to win. So when this kid at one of Kobe's summer camps challenged the Mamba to one-on-one, I doubt he was thinking about winning, just having fun. Kobe wanted to have fun too. So he toyed with the kid. Kobe tossed the ball around the kid's back, then bounced it off the backboard, making the kid spin around like a top looking for the ball, only to find it back in the hands of Bryant. Kobe even taunted the boy, telling him he'd have to "get stops" if he wanted the ball. The theme going forward is simple: It doesn't matter who you are, Kobe wants to humiliate you.
14 LeBron James
In the 2013 offseason, the LA Lakers acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. The new super-team was supposed to be a title contender but ended up struggling to make the playoffs. The Lakers poor showings were met with a hailstorm of criticism. LeBron James tried to downplay the scrutiny and pressure the Lakers were playing under when he said:
"No one will ever be able to compare what we went through. Even though they're not winning and they're losing a lot of games, it's still nowhere near what we went through. That level of magnitude was nowhere near where ours was two years ago. Nothing. Nothing compares to it."
Kobe, when asked about LeBron's comments, fired back with an emasculating inquiry, "What does he want, a cookie for that?" Ouch. LeBron has always been a complainer, that's nothing new. But when another grown man asks you if you want a cookie for your troubles, you wind up looking like a six-year old.
13 Stephen Curry
Before he set the world on fire with his jump-shot, Steph Curry was just another rookie trying to make a name for himself. In 2010, Kobe was the defending champion and the game's top dog. The stone-cold killer was still at his peak and few dared to disrespect him. Curry, however, underestimated Bryant's intensity and took a crack at the veteran in the final minute of a three-point game. In an attempt to rattle Bryant, Curry asked if he was nervous about his impending free throws. Kobe responded only with a glare. A glare that said "are you kidding me rook?" Kobe sank the free throws and Curry hasn't forgotten about that soul-piercing stare since.
12 Shane Battier
The Lakers met the Rockets in the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals. Awaiting Bryant was elite defender, Shane Battier. Battier prided himself on his defense and no one made Kobe work harder for his points. For a great defender, there is NOTHING more embarrassing than fouling a jump-shooter, and then seeing him drill the shot anyway. In this case, Kobe poured salt on the wound too. Bryant drove left, stopped on a dime, and pulled up for a jumper from the foul line. Battier bumped him, but the shot still dropped. Kobe then proceeded to walk over toward courtside commentator, Doug Collins, and yell, "He can't guard me!" And it was clear by the expression on Battier's face that he agreed.
11 Shawn Marion
No one likes getting their ankles broken. But for NBA players it's part of the game. If you play against the quickest, most explosive athletes in the world, you're bound to get yourself twisted up on defense at some point. None of that makes it less embarrassing though. Like, Battier, Marion was a top man-to-man defender in the NBA during the 2000s. So, needless to say, when #24 put him to the floor with nothing but a shimmy and a shake, people were impressed. Probably even Marion. This was an all-time ankle-breaker. Marion didn't stumble. He didn't lose his footing. He didn't lose his balance momentarily. He collapsed. He got crossed up so severely that he just crumpled to the ground. It was like his legs couldn't understand what happened and they just gave up. To make matters worse, Kobe finished with a two-handed dunk as the Lakers bench erupted and the crowd cheered.
10 Kyrie Irving
During the 2012 Olympic tryouts, brash rookie, Kyrie Irving showcased his skills in front of the NBA's elite. Players were admittedly impressed by his play, but he was still just a rookie. When he challenged Kobe to a game of one-on-one, Bryant scoffed at the idea, viewing Irving as barely more than some high school kid who wants to be able to tell his friends he played ball with Kobe Bryant. It took Irving some time, but he got Kobe to agree to play a game of one-on-one the following summer for $50,000. It's 2016 now and they still have yet to play the coveted game. However, in 2013, the Lakers were in Cleveland and Kobe and Kyrie got their one-on-one moment. Irving finds himself covered by Bryant so he backs up to near-half-court. His teammates spread wide so Irving can do his thing isolated against 34-year old Bryant. It fails miserably. Kobe keep Kyrie in front of him the whole time amidst of flurry of crossovers and hesitations. KB even forces him to pick up his dribble and shoot a contested turn-around shot. Kobe blocked it.
9 Ray Allen
This one is great because it starts with Ray Allen embarrassing Kobe, but ends with Kobe destroying Ray Allen. First, Allen strips the ball from Kobe at half-court. Straight up picked his pocket. And that's embarrassing for any player south of seven feet. Being able to control the ball with the dribble is a given in the NBA, so it's embarrassing when a defender just takes the ball from you. Best way to handle this situation? Do what Kobe did. Chase down Ray Allen. Elevate at the same time as him. Wait until Ray starts coming back down to earth, then spike his feeble layup attempt into the floor like it's a volleyball. When you finally land glare down upon your victim who has crumped to the ground in a heap of embarrassment.
8 Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban, who has never been one to parse his words, appeared on an ESPN radio show in Dallas. The discussion turned to the nearing matchup between the Mavericks and Lakers as well as the disappointing record of the Lakers new super-squad. Cuban suggested that the Lakers consider amnestying Kobe. Needless to say number 24 wasn't too happy about those comments. The Lakers would go on to beat the Mavericks on their home floor in front of Cuban. Kobe dropped 38 points, corralled 12 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists. Bryant put the cherry on the sundae with a dagger in the final 45 seconds to give the Lakers a comfortable 4-point lead.
After the game Kobe tweeted:
That's a boss move.
7 Sam Mitchell
You might be wondering who Sam Mitchell is right now. He is the former coach of the Toronto Raptors; the genius who orchestrated the defense that allowed Kobe to score 81 points. Mitchell's humiliation is historic. Which is too bad. It's not like he could jump out there and cover Kobe himself, even though he looked like he wanted to. But now any time someone thinks of Sam Mitchell they also think that guy let one dude score 81 points on his team. Forever associated with Kobe's historic scoring outburst, Sam Mitchell's coaching career has been hindered by one regular season game in 2006. Poor, poor Sam. Mitchell even told ESPN after a loss to L.A. in 2016 that featured 38 points from the Black Mamba, "I hate him, if I don't ever see him again, it will be too soon. I hate him." Mitchell wasn't being completely serious, but still. He's definitely still salty over the 81 points 10 years ago.
6 Yao Ming
If you are a seven-foot and five-inch tall basketball player, there is one thing that should never ever, ever, ever happen to you. No one under seven-feet should ever dunk on you. It's the sports equivalent of David slaying Goliath. Yao did a good job at avoiding his David and Goliath moment for the first few years of his career. Yao became the ultimate challenge for the game's elite dunkers. He could be their Everest, but who would get there first? Well in 2005, Kobe climbed Mt. Ming and put the third-year center on his first poster. Kobe drove baseline from the left side of the court. Yao came over to help but it was too late. Kobe was airborne. Yao should've just let him go. But I'm glad he didn't.
5 Deron Williams
Dunking on someone must be the best feeling in the world. It energizes you, your team, and the crowd. However, in attempting to put somebody on a poster, you run the risk of being denied by the very defender you're trying to humiliate, and you end up being the one who is humiliated. Deron Williams made the fatal mistake of challenging Kobe to stop his dunk, probably assuming he'd flush it or draw a foul. Instead, Bryant met him at the top and denied what would have been a crucial two points in the final few minutes of the game. It's one thing to get your dunk denied by a center—some shot-altering tree like Mutombo, Dwight Howard or Hassan Whiteside. But getting your dunk attempt stuffed right back at you by a shooting guard...that's embarrassing.
4 Matt Barnes
Here's the scenario: 2011, Magic vs. Lakers in Orlando. In the third quarter, Barnes and Bryant get tangled up under the hoop trying to get rebounding position. They end up pushing each other and exchanging words. Nothing big, besides the double-technical. Bryant and Barnes keep their conversation going and God knows what they're saying. The ball goes out of bounds off one of the Laker players under L.A.'s hoop. Matt Barnes is the inbounder and Kobe is "guarding" him. The ref hands the ball to Barnes who immediately shoves the ball centimeters from Kobe's face, in an attempt to startle him. 99.9% of people flinch in that situation. Not Kobe. The Black Mamba didn't even blink; he just stared back at Barnes waiting for him to inbound the ball. Barnes was the bully who tried to scare someone by pretending to throw a punch and ended up looking stupid because the kid knew he wouldn't actually do it. The moral of the story here is: Kobe can't be intimidated, so don't try it.
3 J.R. Rider
According to Kobe, he has never once been beaten in one-on-one—something I completely believe. There are several stories affirming Bryant's maniacal competitiveness. One such story, highlighted in an article in The Player's Tribune, recalled the time he destroyed a teammate, J.R. Rider, in one-on-one. The matchup took place in 2000 after a practice. According to former Laker, Horace Grant, Rider would talk trash to Kobe constantly during scrimmages. Eventually, a fed-up, 22-year old Kobe challenged J.R. to a game of one-on-one. Phil Jackson didn't even wait until the end of practice. He told everyone to get off the court and let the two youngsters go at it. Now don't forget, Rider was a legitimate player. He was a fifth-overall pick in the draft and a Dunk Contest champ (like Kobe). The guy was no slouch. Regardless, the beatdown was so bad that after a while the players watching began yelling and pleading for the massacre to stop. When it finally did stop, Rider was humiliated. According to Horace Grant, "J.R. had his tail between his legs for the first time in his life."
2 Ron Artest/Metta World Peace
There's only one player dumb enough to actively and relentlessly instigate Kobe. That player is Ron Artest or Metta World Peace or whatever he goes by today. There's an unspoken rule in basketball that you don't piss off the guys who can retaliate with buckets. I think we can all agree Kobe Bryant is one of those guys. With about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter of a 2009 regular season game, the Lakers held a two-point lead. During a Lakers possession, Kobe fought Artest for position and the two ended up pushing and shoving. They were assessed a double-technical and the game resumed. Artest continued to cover Bryant and you can see him yapping in Kobe's ear. Bad idea. Over the next six-and-a-half minutes, Kobe went off for 18 points in addition to forcing Artest to turn the ball over twice and blocking one of his shots. I imagine every Rocket player was screaming at Artest in the locker room after the game.
1 Dwight Howard
Numero Uno. The single most embarrassing thing Kobe Bryant has ever done to another human being. There were lots of candidates but only one can hold the title of Most Embarrassed by Kobe. Getting dunked on is always humiliating. But there are different degrees to how badly someone gets dunked on. On a scale of 1 to 10, Dwight Howard gets an 11 here. Some players get "dunked on" when really they were just the closest person to the dunker, never really in position to do anything. That's not the case with Dwight. Howard was right there under the hoop the whole time. It's almost like he was waiting to set Kobe up for the stuff. Kobe split two defenders with lightning quickness and broke free toward the rim. I don't think Dwight expected Kobe to go for the dunk. It was far too late once he realized what Kobe's intentions were. Bryant hammered the ball through the hoop with Howard under him, toppling back with his arms up like the ceiling fell down on top of him. The ferocious dunk silenced the crowd and made Howard the butt of locker room jokes for the rest of the season.
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