Just when it seemed that the closest we'd have to a Kobe Stopper this season would be Shane Battier putting his hand in Bryant's face on his jump shots, Matt Barnes has stepped up to the task. With aggressive physical play, double technicals, & a ball threat to Kobe's unflinching face from point blank range, Barnes rekindled the fire started by defensive specialists of the past.
Who is the best of the real Kobe Stoppers? Let's take a look.
Ruben Patterson: The original. Dubbed Kobe Stopper by his teammate Shawn Kemp. Stopping Kobe since they were Laker teammates in 1998. "It all started my rookie year," said Patterson. "Ever since training camp & practice, he's been arrogant. I just try to play physical with him. I can tell he was (frustrated). You know Kobe, he talks a lot."
Kobe's response: "Who?" followed by "He's a good defender. (He plays) well defensively. But (affect) me personally? Not much."
Raja Bell: The only Kobe Stopper to draw a suspension for a flagrant foul on Kobe. After clotheslining Bryant to the floor, Bell said, "I have no respect for him because I think he's a pompous arrogant individual. A lot of people let him get away with things & he feels like he's supposed to get away with them & I don't agree with that."
Kobe's response: "Does he know me? Do I know this guy? I don't know this guy. I might have said one word to this guy. I don't know this kid. I don't need to know this kid. I don't want to. We go out there, we play the game & leave it at that. Maybe he wasn't hugged enough as a kid. I look at him a little bit, he gets a little insecure or something. I don't know."
Matt Barnes: It wasn't a playoff game, but last Sunday, Barnes brought the full wrath of menace required to be a Kobe Stopper. Yet unlike Bell & Patterson, Barnes only had nice words to tweet after the game. "No such thing as a (Kobe stopper) he's just the badest man n the league. I jus try 2 make him work 4 every point. Respect!!!"
Kobe's response: "Um...uh...He's entertaining."
So who's the real Kobe Stopper?
Ruben Patterson disqualified himself in 2007 by saying, "I'm sick of it now. It's worldwide. I hear it everywhere I travel. The first thing people say is 'Kobe Stopper.' They don't say Ruben Patterson. They say 'Kobe Stopper.' But I tell everyone that me & Kobe are good friends now and he actually tried to get me to the Lakers two years ago." Stopper gone soft.
It's a tough call between Raja & Matt Barnes. While Raja's battles with Kobe were in the playoffs, he seemed to have hurt feelings by Kobe & even by Phil Jackson's psych job. He whined that Phil told him he "fucking deserved" the elbows Kobe was giving him. He even accused Kobe of butting below the belt. "Every time you stick your butt out & try to hit me in my genitals, you're doing it on purpose. That's something you don't do inadvertently." Really? He was attacking you with his butt?
Barnes seemed to enjoy battling Kobe while keeping his emotions in check. Bryant did score 34 points but only shot 40% FG. And Barnes got the win in what may have been the biggest game of the year for the Magic.
Matt Barnes is the real Kobe Stopper... for now.