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Kobe Bryant says he is the best one-on-one player ever

Jan 17, 2013, 2:59 PM EST

Kobe Bryant Tracy McGrady Getty Images

Kobe Bryant circa 2013 is a lot more mature person than Kobe Bryant circa 1997. As you would expect. He’s been through the battles, he’s calm under pressure, he picks his spots better.

But don’t challenge him. Like to a game of one-on-one.

That’s the sense you take away from a great Q&A by Steve Palmer at ESPN. Good stuff where you learn Kobe loved “Django” and hates dog… poop. We’ll go with poop on a family site.

But the best part was when Palmer started asking about playing guys one-on-one and Kobe gave a series of great answers.

• On if he could beat Michael Jordan: “I’m not sure, but he would win some and I would win some in a seven-game series. It would probably come down to the last few shots.”

• What about beating LeBron? “LeBron is a terrific all-around, five-on-five basketball player who’s an all-time great. But I’d get him… LeBron is a terrific all-around, five-on-five basketball player who’s an all-time great. But I’d get him.”

• Who would give him trouble one-on-one? Kevin Durant is the guy that would give me the most trouble. With his length and ability to use the dribble, he’d be tough.”

• What about Tracy McGrady? “I played T-Mac. I cooked him. Roasted him. Wasn’t even close. Ask him, he’ll tell you. When I was about 20, we were in Germany doing some promotional stuff for that other sneaker company and we played basketball every day. We were in the gym all the time. We played three games of one-on-one to 11. I won all three games. One game I won 11-2. After the third game he said he had back spasms and couldn’t play anymore.”

As Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated said on twitter, if you think Kobe never lost a game of one-on-one, you should ask Brian Shaw about that. As a first and second year player Kobe used to challenge all the veterans and the way I heard the stories he didn’t always win.

Still, the quotes are vintage Kobe. You should go read the entire interview. But this was my favorite part.

  1. ihavenonickname - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    You don’t have to like Kobe. He’s right, though.

    • thesixersbench - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:10 PM

      MJ just spit coffee all over his screen.

      “This f*ckin’ guy…”

      • badintent - Jan 17, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        Next time the Bobcats play the Lakers, Jordon will tell his bench warmers, “just mug the clown” .

    • bucrightoff - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      I love how Kobe more or less admits here “Yup, i’m the single most selfish player ever”. True indeed. You know what makes Mike the King? He passed to John Paxton and Steve Kerr for winning shots. Kobe wouldn’t pass to MJ himself in the same situation. Kobe isn’t even the best player of this era (that’s Tim Duncan)

      • Kurt Helin - Jan 17, 2013 at 9:30 PM

        You’re right, I can’t think of one situation where Kobe passed to, say, Derek Fisher in a key moment…. oh, that’s right.

  2. losanginsight - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    That’s the mentality you have when you are a 5x NBA Champ… Take notes Scottie pippen jr. (lebron).

    • badintent - Jan 17, 2013 at 6:06 PM

      Sorry,I gotta go with Khris, he got one on one with Kim, Kobe got some white trash hotel worker.

  3. amoose3 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Seems to me like LeBron’s strength would be just as an advantage against Kobe as Durant’s length. As a side note, AI is much smaller but would have loved to see them play 1-on-1 during Iverson’s prime

  4. themagicfanguy - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    I strongly dislike Lebron, but he would destroy Kobe one-on-one. Jordan would as well. Heck, Carmelo would too.

  5. dbick - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    NBA needs to get its act together and start having a one on one tourney during the all star festivities.

    • dannymac17 - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      Greatest idea I have heard yet.

      a 16 man tourney, bracket style.

      • 00maltliquor - Jan 17, 2013 at 6:17 PM

        Love, love, LOVE that idea! And bring back HORSE too!

    • money2long - Jan 17, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    • saint1997 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:58 PM

      absolutely. I had an idea about that the other day where teams could put in players that maybe were not full all stars yet but were still good developing players. Tyreke Evans, John Wall etc. may not make an All Star team and won’t be in the rising stars challenge, but they should definitely be showcased

  6. blue18hutthutt - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    “After the third game he said he had back spasms and couldn’t play anymore”

    LOL

    • cordae - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      As funny as that was, it hurt a little. I loved T-mac

      • blue18hutthutt - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:40 PM

        Me too.

        Imagine if he and Yao could’ve both stayed healthy

    • scalfor3 - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:00 PM

      Let’s be fair, Kobe claims he was about 20 when that happened. That puts T-Mac at “about 19″, still several years before he blossomed into a star then. McGrady in his prime probably still loses to Kobe, but I doubt he gets embarrassed like that.

  7. gopokes0714 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Talking about today only (not prime vs prime) I don’t think Kobe could take Westbrook one on one, let alone Durant. I think we have seen that the last few match-ups.

    • aboogy123456 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:29 PM

      westbrook never guards kobe, Sefolosha does, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Kobe does as good of a job as anybody guarding westbrook, but nobody in the league can stay in front of westbrook, so you actually haven’t seen anything.

      • gopokes0714 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:33 PM

        If he can’t stay in front of him, how in the hell can he guard him one on one? Keep in mind Westbrook was the Pac-10 defense player of the year. IMO Westbrook gets a couple more stops than Kobe one on one.

      • aboogy123456 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:34 PM

        there are some players that NOBODY can guard one on one. Kobe can slow westbrook down enough to win the game, but they both fall into that category of unguardable.

      • badintent - Jan 17, 2013 at 5:56 PM

        We all saw what CP3 did to Kobe the last time they played. Kobe got burnt crisp, still smoking, still on second best team in LA

    • unxpexted1 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      I see what you mean but i think he’d be okay one on one. Kobe does a decent job on him in the half court, its when he(RW) gets a full head of steam when kobe has no chance on the break.

  8. cordae - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    “That other sneaker company”

    Lol. Eight years later he’s still pissed at addidas. So would i if they had given me that atrocious looking shoe, as if he didnt have a say in the design though…

    • gopokes0714 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:28 PM

      I think he really thought he was going to out do the Jordan. Of course he blames Adidas for the shortcomings. Just like he blames others when the team doesn’t perform.

      You cannot deny he is the greatest since Jordan, but his ego, and skewed version of reality, make it easy not to like him.

      On a positive note, I greatly admire is determination to win.

    • money2long - Jan 17, 2013 at 7:30 PM

      maybe since he is on nike now, he doesn’t want to promote adidas by name dropping. you ever notice how some athletes take off the gatorade labels when they are drinking them on the bench? lebron does it, becuz i think he is working with powerade. but who knows, maybe he just has a vendetta against adidas, like you mention.

  9. chitownmatt - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    Does anyone here really expect Kobe Bryant to say anything less?
    Come’on…

    And of course Kobe is the best one-on-one player ever…
    He has spent his entire career practicing his one-on-five game.
    (one-on-one, thats easy.) lol

  10. unxpexted1 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    I really think what separates Kobe on one on one games is his ability to make tough shots. I love Jordan and he is hands down the greatest. I’m also a huge kobe fan, but the type of shots kobe consistently makes in the half court no matter how good of D is played on him, i think he has a good chance beating almost any peremiter player one on one.

    • aboogy123456 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      Did you see that 3 he hit against milwaukee the other night where he was holding the ball over the defender’s head, and then just decided to shoot it? It takes me forever to longer to watch lakers games than any other team because I have to rewind kobe plays so often.

      • unxpexted1 - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:01 PM

        I’m sayin!!! He shotmaking is just ridiculous. There is always 2 or 3 shots per game where you just gotta shake your head, even though you’ve seen him do it before. Its art bro.

    • chitownmatt - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:56 PM

      And Jordan had the indefensible fade-away…

      I can see that shot being quite handy in a one-on-one game.

      I often wonder why no NBA player since has really ever tried to use it.
      (except Deng last night, lol.)

    • kinggw - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      If you take enough bad shots some are bound to go in.

      • lmoneyfresh - Jan 17, 2013 at 6:34 PM

        and that’s why his shooting % will never sniff Jordan’s. Jordan knew what a bad shot was, but Kobe has never met a shot he wouldn’t take.

  11. m3dman3 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    One word, Jordan.

  12. timb12 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    You don’t think Kobe would get into their heads or something? It’s not all about talent. I’m sure in a game of 1 on 1 Kobe would have more “want to” than whoever he was playing. It’s the same reason I can still beat high school kids at basketball even though they’re better than I am. I’ll still beat them in 1 on 1 because there’s no way I’m about to lose to ___.

  13. buffalowned - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    He would not be able to stop lebron and he would only be able to score on him with fade away jumpers..wouldn’t expect him to say anything different tho we all know kobe thinks very highly of himself

  14. supremekingz - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    Kobe can never guard Melo, and gets posted up every time they play. And although he’s finished now, Gilbert Arenas used to drop 3’s right in Kobe’s face

  15. davidly - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Interesting that he was mum on the topic of a series of one-on-one games against a certain slasher who goes by the name of Skibby MaRue.

  16. cubama - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    Just to clarify……Kobe said he beat Tmac when he was 20. He is now 34……20 would make the year 1999, when Tracy was still with the Raptors. Tracy didnt become an all-star till 2001 (orlando magic).

    Nice try Kobe……Tracy would have won when he peaked. You are a better shooter but hes too big, too athletic, too skilled.

    I dont even think you could be beat D-Wade right now…..or Westbrook for that matter. And we are not even talking Kyrie.

    Durant…no
    Melo….no
    Bron….no

    • badintent - Jan 17, 2013 at 6:01 PM

      Lets add the only guard to go AN ENTIRE SEASON DOING THE BIG 3D The one and only Big O. And I would put Elgin Baylor and Dr J who both would jump over Kobe and his Honey nutts

    • musician0785 - Jan 17, 2013 at 8:45 PM

      lmao u not talkin kyrie? u shouldnt be considering the 15 he just put up last week when kobe was guarding him…….and i guess u forget that kobe was just as athletic as t-mac was… gave him 33 in a quarter once…..and westbrook isnt big enough once kobe got him in the post it would b game over…..

    • musician0785 - Jan 17, 2013 at 8:51 PM

      correct me if im wrong but didnt kobe just hold kyrie to 15?

  17. fredagsedb - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    It’s a shame basketball is not one on one game then Kobe.

  18. raidmagic - Jan 17, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    I’ll take Jordan today 1 on 1 v Kobe.

    • badintent - Jan 18, 2013 at 10:57 PM

      Ya, MJ got a smoking hot latin wife and Kobe got a smoking hot Latin wife( soon to return) so bring on the UFC cage fight. winner gets both Latinoes for some En fuego fiesta !

  19. daddyghi - Jan 17, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    can someone get this guy a knock on his head?! this guy’s delusional…

  20. paulhargis53 - Jan 17, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    Kobe wouldnt beat Magic in his prime.
    Jordan would absolutely kill him.

    I don’t expect him to say anything less, but he’s delusional.

    LeBron plays a team game, Kobe doesn’t understand that. He wants to win, yeah, but his ego demands he be the star of the win- that’s why Shaq got traded, he knew Shaq would get equal or more credit for the wins.
    BTW, LeBron schools Kobe 1 on 1.

    • musician0785 - Jan 17, 2013 at 8:49 PM

      kobe wouldnt beat magic? LMAOOOOOOOO Magic was not a scorer and had zero jumper…i love how history changes as time goes on…and as selfish and as ego driven as u claim him 2 be he won 5 rings, and 2 with gasol and odom….i highly doubt lebron is winning with gasol and odom……and lebron schools kobe one on one? what games u watchin? please tell me cuz ive never seen that….btw shaq got traded because jerry buss didnt wanna give a 30 year old out of shape big man 100 million dollars…..

  21. realitysmack22 - Jan 17, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    Poke..that’s dumb..PAC 10 defensive player?..how many players have the body of your average nba player?..lol..it’s the NBA..+Russell isn’t getting those plays with a full stream ahead..it’s one on one.. i’m right here body to body..Kobe is too big for Russell..as for the match up with others..that’s debatable..

  22. lowtalker - Jan 17, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    he is delusional . . . and narcissistic and . . . well like the earlier comment, he spends each minute on the floor practicing his one on one . . . .it is that egocentric attitude . . . and it is not confined to the court; just ask his wife and that young girl from Colorado

  23. bdoctor1973 - Jan 17, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    THIS ARROGANT BA$TARD!!!!! I CANT STAND HIM…THATS WHY THE LAKERS ARE WAY THEY AT NOW BECAUSE OF HIM…STOP BEING SO INTO YOUR DAMN SELF!!!!

  24. 00maltliquor - Jan 17, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    Kobe ain’t lying.

    I know there is gonna be a bunch of NBA heads on here all up in arms about this and say Jordan is, hands down, but this is one-on-one, not of all times.

    Jordan was FANTASTIC, but I’ve seen Jordan’s career AND Kobe’s. Kobe gots more moves. He’s just a better one-on-one player. Barely. But still better.

  25. thenmoveback - Jan 17, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    The only thing Kobe will be beating is his “black mamba” while watching the playoffs on the couch.

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