Kobe Bryant once said that if there was any individual who was closest to being a “Kobe Stopper,’’ it was Tony Allen.
Drafted by Boston in 2004, Allen was the defensive specialist the Celtics employed to guard Bryant in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals. Following Bryant’s final game in Memphis last week, where Allen now plays, the Los Angeles Lakers legend gave the Grizzlies guard a gift of his respect.
“To Tony, the best defender I ever faced!,’’ reads a pair of shoes signed by Bryant, which Allen tweeted a photo of Friday night.
“The player I had the most trouble with, individually, was always Tony Allen. Always,’’ he told TNT’s Ernie Johnson last December.
And the stats bare that out as well. USA Todayrecently looked at Bryant’s stats against a few of the league’s most well-known defensive guards. According to Bryant’s points-per-game average and shooting percentage, Allen was the most adept at containing the future Hall-of-Famer, particularly in the playoffs.
Bryant, who says this will be his last season, has flipped the traditional retirement tour script and has repeatedly given opponents farewell gifts. Kevin Durant, Paul George, and Draymond Green have all received signed shoes from the retiring Laker.
For Allen, who says he wants to be remembered as “elite,’’ that is pretty good company.