If you’ve followed the career of Kobe Bryant, you’ve seen him have a multitude of so-called rivals at the shooting guard position, all of which he’s outlasted and obviously bested at one point or another.
The “rivalry” with Tracy McGrady was fun and it’s a shame that it didn’t last longer, and Vince Carter also could have given the Black Mamba a run for his money but didn’t seem interested enough in his own greatness and thus we were robbed there as well.
Allen Iverson provided a great potential nemesis given the contrast in styles, but his size made it as such that he would never defend Bryant in a million years on the hardwood.
That’s left us with Ray Allen, Manu Ginobili and Dwyane Wade, who all at one point or another gave Kobe a terrific matchup and made things both interesting and entertaining for us as fans.
But there is one guy who has been waiting for perhaps the longest time ever to finally get a crack at Kobe. Heck, he’s gotten a few chances here and there, but never the chance, not until today.
The left-handed guard has been victimized by Kobe on more than one occasion, be it NBA floor, or summer league play. And each and every single time, Harden has barked at him and refused to back down.
The one lingering problem that he had was that he could never pay Bryant back because he wasn’t primary option on his team and thus didn’t have the possibilities of just attacking the superstar whenever it best suited him.
For instance, in last year’s playoffs, Bryant tortured Harden in both the pinch post and the low block despite the fact that Harden did one of the best defensive jobs ever seen on KB by anyone not named Bruce Bowen. But Bryant’s singular offensive talent just made Harden look like a petulant fly that kept reviving itself only to consistently land on a windshield. Making matters even more frustrating was the fact that Bryant got the opportunity at times to hide himself defensively and rest by defending the likes of Thabo Sefolosha or even guarding Harden away from the ball.
Best believe that James Harden has remembered all of those times Kobe baited him, talked trash and well, owned him.
It’s worth noting, Metta World Peace will probably spend the bulk of the minutes defending Harden, but on those rare trips when Harden sees Bryant on him in the half-court, he will assuredly be thinking about the opportunity that’s finally fallen before him.
In an interesting twist of fate, Kobe Bryant is leading the league in scoring at 26.9 points per game, but James Harden is right on his heels at 26.7 points per game and might want to narrow that margin tonight against the Mamba.
And if he does?
As fans, we should all be better for it, because matchups of marquee shooting guards are slowly becoming a thing of the past; especially when considering that Kobe’s career will soon be coming to a close.
It might not sound at the moment like a bitter old rivalry at the moment, but it definitely has the makings of one…
And we’re all lucky for it.