For years, various NBA players in the Western Conference have served time as their team's designated "Kobe-Stopper," a term used to describe someone whose sole responsibility in a game was containing Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
The theory was as follows: If a team was able to limit the number of field goal attempts and points from Bryant, then their chances of beating the Lakers would improve, since teams had little hope of containing center Shaquille O'Neal.
The fact that Patterson was recognized in that role is almost laughable—although he did have a few moments, Bryant usually obliterated him in the postseason.
Patterson had the athleticism to guard Bryant, but he lacked the discipline; once Bryant gained an edge the battle was lost for Patterson.
Patterson's Blazers found little success against the Lakers in the playoffs, and considering the way Bryant shined when defended by Patterson, the label of "Kobe-Stopper" may be undeserved.
The same can't be said for Bowen. While he may not have been the athlete that Patterson was, he was well-schooled in defensive technique and principles.
Bryant and Bowen's battles were epic at times, and Bowen is the only player I can remember that truly rattled Bryant with tough, physical—and sometimes dirty—defense.
Bowen may be the only player who has had enough success against Bryant on a somewhat consistent basis to claim that term—at least until now.
New Portland forward Gerald Wallace could be the next player in line to wear that infamous tag, and his candidacy may be the most legitimate of them all.
Wallace is bigger than both Bowen and Patterson, but more importantly, he is a much more complete player.
Patterson and Bowen were limited by their ability, but Wallace is one of the more talented and underrated forwards in the game.
He's able to impact a game on a variety of levels, and his presence is usually found throughout any stat sheet.
Wallace's Blazers sent the Lakers spiraling to their fourth straight loss last night, with Wallace only guarding Bryant sparingly. If coach Nate McMillan is smart, he will pay close attention to Wallace's days as a Charlotte Bobcat.
The Lakers are the two-time defending NBA champions, but if the Bobcats would have found a way to meet them in the Finals, you would be hard-pressed to make a case for the Lakers based on their regular season history.
Amazingly, the Bobcats have won 12 out of their past 14 regular season games against the Lakers. A major reason for Charlotte's success was its ability to defend Bryant with long, athletic players who had good defensive range.
Namely, Wallace and former teammate Stephen Jackson. Jackson and Wallace are both bigger than Bryant, and both possess the quickness and athleticism to defend him off the dribble.
Wallace may have been better suited to defend Bryant, though, because his reputation has mostly been earned on that side of the court, and he prided himself on his ability to change the momentum of a game with his rebounding and steals.
Wallace scored 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out seven assists in Portland's win over the Lakers, and those numbers offer an illustration as to why Wallace could be the most legitimate "Kobe-stopper" to date.
At 6'8", Wallace has the size, strength and quickness to present problems for Bryant, and he still has the talent to impact the game on the offensive side of the court as well.
Bowen and Patterson contributed offensively on occasion, but Wallace has the ability to dominate a game offensively, on the back boards and in the passing lane—all while playing solid defense.
Bryant would likely welcome a postseason challenge from Wallace, as he has conquered so many others designated for that role and he has had success against Wallace.
The most memorable Lakers game I ever attended included a 56-point explosion from Bryant against the Bobcats in Charlotte.
However, the Lakers lost that game. Although Bryant won the battle on the offensive end, the Bobcats ultimately won the war, partly because Bryant fouled out while defending Wallace.
That's what makes Wallace so dangerous and perhaps worthy of the role; although he may not be able to stop Bryant, he can make his life more difficult—and he will contribute in other ways as well.
Wallace certainly gives the Blazers a different element with his versatility, and he helps lend credence to their status as a dark horse contender in the West.
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