Former NBA journeyman says Kobe Bryant was tougher to guard than LeBron James

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read

Trevor Ariza developed a reputation as a good defensive player during a lengthy NBA career, and the former Los Angeles Lakers forward recently weighed in on what it was like to have to guard two of the franchise’s legendary players, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Ariza said Bryant’s relentless nature made trying to defend him a “complete embarrassment,” as opposed to dealing with James’ ability to “make the right play.”

Ariza last played in the NBA in the 2021-22 season with James and the Lakers. He also was a teammate of Bryant with Los Angeles during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 campaigns, winning the 2009 NBA title after losing in the 2008 NBA Finals.

He finished in the top 10 in the league in steals per game six times. His career overlapped with much of James’, as he debuted in the 2004-05 NBA season with the New York Knicks while the superstar made his NBA debut the season before with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Bryant and James are two of the best offensive players of all time, though they are known for having different approaches on that end of the floor.

Bryant was a high-volume shooter who could explode for an epic outburst at any time, evidenced by an 81-point outing in January of 2006 that still ranks second in NBA history for points in a single game. He also had multiple 60-point games during his career.

James is one of the most efficient offensive players ever and has scored more points than anyone in NBA history, having passed former Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for that honor last season. He continues to add to that total as a 38-year-old playing in his 21st NBA season.

Bryant played all 20 of his NBA seasons for the Lakers, ending his career with the 2015-16 campaign, and he ranks fourth in points scored in NBA history. He averaged 25.0 points per game for his career, while James currently sits at 27.2 points per game over his time with the Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Lakers.

It’s a testament to both great players that they were able to make their marks on the game in different ways, with Ariza seeing up close how difficult it was to stop either one.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.