Kobe Bryant is more than a year removed from playing in the NBA—and roughly a half-decade displaced from his prime—but he continues to get love from present-day superstars.
Kevin Durant is the latest megastud to pay homage to the Black Mamba. In one of his fan question-and-answer sessions on YouTube, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP was asked which player he had the toughest time guarding one-on-one. His answer? Kobe.
Here’s his explanation (via HoopsHype):
Question: Toughest player for you to defend and why?
Kevin Durant: Toughest player for me to defend one-on-one… Had to be Kobe Bryant, just because the way he made tough shots… Is easy to get discouraged when you play a great defense and he still makes a tough shot. That was tough to get over as a young player. And his footwork. It was difficult to stay out of foul trouble.
Kobe was never the most efficient player, particularly towards the end of his career. He’s also notoriously overrated as a clutch-time scorer. Those are statistical facts. But Durant’s answer is hardly misguided, especially if he’s referring to earlier in his career, when Kobe was still Kobe.
Part of what made Bryant so terrifying, aside from the footwork Durant references, was his ignorance to difficulty. He didn’t have a shot that he wouldn’t take. That fearless approach when it came to field-goal distribution is tough to defend. Never mind his efficiency. What are you supposed to do when the person in front of you will pull up from 19 feet away off the dribble on one leg; turn around and attempt a fadeaway from anywhere inside the arc; try to put down an acrobatic reverse layup; jack a long-ass three-pointer; attack the rim; or feign attacking the rim only to stop on a dime and launch something than can only be described as a pull-up fadeaway?
This is an important ingredient to Bryant’s legacy—his complete and utter disregard for what constitutes a shootable shot. And it’s this general uninhibited approach that resonates with players, both past and present, including Durant.