Kenyon Martin Sr. talks about Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan as the toughest to guard, but Shaq being a step above the two of them.
NBA power forward Kenyon Martin was a physical defender in his time. He was strong and fast for his size, which allowed him to guard all five positions. He also had a high defensive IQ, often forcing the opponent into taking difficult and uncomfortable shots.
Martin made his debut in 2000 with the New Jersey Nets. In his 15-year NBA career, he played with several teams – Clippers, Bucks, Knicks, and the Nuggets. He was a member of the 2002 Nets team which played the Lakers in the finals.
In a sit-down with Gilbert Arenas on the “No Chill” podcast, Kenyon Martin looks back on the toughest players to guard. He starts off by sharing his experience guarding Kobe Bryant. ” I am on top of him, he shoot that thing off the glass with his left hand. I was like – ‘Aye, don’t do that no more man, don’t do that again dawg.'”
Martin next picks Tim Duncan. He explains how his usual tactics against big men would not work on ‘the big fundamental’. However, Martin takes a lot of pride in not allowing Timmy to make his trademark bank shot. “The one shot I wouldn’t give to him is the bank shot. I’m like – ‘you’re not doing that to me, you can get anything else.'”
Kenyon Martin picks Shaquille O’Neal as the toughest player to guard of all time.
Josiah Johson a co-host of the podcast asked Martin – “What was it like having to guard a guy like Shaq?” To which Martin had a very straightforward answer – “Impossible”. Furthermore, he continues to explain how he was not a primary defender on Shaq but would have to pick him up in transition or off a timeout.
“I’m the double guy. I’m the double and get-out guy. He catch it, wherever I am on the floor I can come over, I can double it and get out. I’m like that with him.” Martin further adds that getting old was the only thing that slowed down Shaq. “No guard here like father time guarded Shaq. Trust me, there was no stopping that man.”
The Big Diesel was a dominant force in his prime. Even though the opponent knew what he’s gonna do, it was impossible to stop him. Aside from being 7’1″ and over 300 pounds, he had a combination of strength and skill that had never been seen before.
Shaq played the center position while Martin mostly played at power forward. Aside from the size disadvantage, there’s also the heft disadvantage. Martin wasn’t the only one who had problems with Shaq at that time. At his peak, no other player had success limiting Shaq’s production.