Andre Iguodala is one of the greatest defenders of this century. But even the defensive ace was no match for a motivated, prime Kobe Bryant.
Iguodala was drafted by the Sixers in 2004 as an uber-athletic wing from Arizona. He was an immediate contributor to the team, making his name primarily as a defensive stopper at the time.
Iguodala’s quick hands, defensive instincts and athletic ability meant that he was usually assigned to the best opposition wing. He recounts well how his first encounter with Kobe in the 2005-06 season had gone:
“He was 3 for 17, only had 17 points,” Iguodala said. “I was locking that s**t up.”
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) May 30, 2016
Bryant was actually 7 of 27 from the field on the night, but Iguodala’s point still stands. What happened next, however, put a target on the youngster’s back. Phil Jackson worked his mysterious ‘Zen Master’ ways in the press conference:
“Then Phil Jackson said in the paper: ‘I’ve never seen anyone guard Kobe as good as that.’ Then Aaron McKie has a quote, he said: ‘Yeah, man, this kid grew up in the era of Kobe, he studied Kobe, so he can guard Kobe.’”
How Kobe Bryant got back at Andre Iguodala in the next game
Kobe was much like Michael Jordan in his mental makeup. Jackson had pushed exactly the right buttons for Bryant to go ballistic in their next matchup, and he knew it. Their next matchup happened on January 6th, 2006, and the Lakers won in a 119-93 blowout. Iguodala says:
“He came in the visiting locker room and asked my teammates: ‘Yo, where’s Dre,’” Iguodala said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, he’s on the court shooting.’ He just said: ‘Tell him 50 tonight.’ It was like he’d been waiting for that game.”
Kobe Bryant made good on his promise in characteristic fashion. The Lakers legend was in the midst of his most prolific scoring season ever – in an all-time great zone.
He made 19 of his 29 shots, including 7 out of 7 3-point attempts. He scored 48 points before walking off the court with a third of the final period remaining. It was like a taunt to Iguodala, and he had to go and look at the footage:
“(Warriors assistant Chris) DeMarco found it on — what’s the system they use for old games? Synergy?” Iguodala said.
“He’s like, ‘Yo, I’m watching it and was like, you know the Staples Center logo? He shot two 3s from the ‘A’ in Staples Center.’ He was making some incredible shots. I remember coming back to the bench and Mo Cheeks was like: ‘Young man, you did a helluva job tonight.’”
“He was just putting Chris Webber in the pick-and-roll. I was dead meat.”