Kobe Bryant faced Shane Battier dozens of times throughout his career, and while Kobe usually got the best of him, Shane knew how to make Kobe work harder on many of his shots.
Shane Battier was a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year in college, and as a rookie he tested his strength and defensive ability against the best player in the NBA at the time. Without Shaq, perhaps Kobe would have to work harder, and the Grizzlies would be able to contain him easier, right…?
Not on this night. The Grizzlies tried Shane on Kobe, they tried doubling, tripling at times, and even put Pau on Kobe to attempt to use the extra length to bother his jumpers. But Kobe was too fast, too skilled, and too motivated on this night.
Unfortunately for any good defender, doing a good job on Kobe sometimes made no difference, because a lot of his misses were unrelated to the defense. Kobe unleashed 56 points on Battier in 3 quarters, and set a new career high at the time. This was one of the 4 or 5 times in Kobe’s career that he could have easily reached 70 points (not including the one time he did).
Now that both players have retired, they would likely show each other a lot of respect for their efforts in their many battles. Shane has given props to Kobe on many occasions, calling him the greatest competitor he ever faced, and his favorite player to go against. Battier reminisced about the 56 point game and said Kobe would have easily scored 70 that game, and possibly set his future career high on that night.
Shane later said he was happy Kobe’s 81-point game came later in his career and not against him.
I know some of you have been asking for longer episodes, so I made this one a little longer. This was one of my favorite performances by Kobe, and I believe it is really underrated. Kobe finished 21/34 from the field with 56 points, putting up 18, 18, and 20 for each quarter. It’s hard to say that he wouldn’t have easily dropped another 18-20 in the 4th, and the only question would be whether or not he would have gotten to 80.