NBA / Mar 9, 2010 / 2:49 pm

The Definitive List of Kobe Bryant Agitators

Anybody who watches MSNBC’s “Lockup” knows this much about prison etiquette: It’s all about perception. You might come into the bing at 5-foot-4 with a real pretty mouth, but if you create the perception right away that you’re stone crazy, you can drop the soap all you want and not have to worry.

Same rules apply in basketball. Guys only mess with you if you let them think they can, which is what makes Kobe Bryant such a strange case. Despite being probably the illest player on the planet for the last decade or so, Kobe still regularly runs across opponents who treat him like a rookie. Even Michael Jordan had his agitators, but by the time MJ was a few rings deep into his career, they were fewer and farther between. With Kobe, despite all he’s accomplished and proven, there still seems to be a perception around the League that he’s soft or susceptible to mind games. Even the younger, less-decorated LeBron doesn’t have as many guys going after his head as Kobe.

Over the weekend, Matt Barnes joined the rank and file of Kobe instigators. Although the Orlando swingman was on the wrong end of a 34-point effort by Kobe, he had Kobe more frustrated than anybody has all year, and Barnes’ team got the win. That got us thinking about the surprisingly long list of Kobe’s most notorious agitators…

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The feud peaked when Ray was in Seattle, and was briefly reignited when he joined the Celtics and beat Kobe in the ’08 Finals. Back in ’04, Kobe’s first year without Shaq, Ray publicly questioned Kobe’s leadership ability and predicted he would regret losing the big fella. “If Kobe doesn’t see he needs two-and-a-half good players to be a legitimate playoff contender or win a championship, in about a year or two he’ll be calling out to Jerry Buss that. ‘We need some help in here,’ or ‘Trade me.’ And we’ll all be saying, ‘I told you so.'” That led to an alleged threatening phone call from Kobe to Ray and some tense stare-downs on the court, but both guys have downplayed the rivalry ever since.

They’re on the same side now, but Artest and Kobe have had their battles in the past. Things came to a head during the ’09 playoffs, when Ron-Ron’s Rockets gave the eventual champion Lakers a scare in the second round while Artest and Kobe traded elbows and technical fouls. In fairness, though, Ron doesn’t discriminate towards Kobe. He’d act like a bully if he was playing against his auntie.

Maybe this should be the other way around. Because no matter what Shaq may have said or did to ruin the relationship in L.A., it’s hard to top Kobe name-dropping Shaq to the Colorado cops. After Shaq left the Lakers, the League and the media tried to force a Kobe/Shaq rivalry which never really materialized. But while both sides say it’s all good now, who can forget this?

Straight from Jay-Z‘s “If I shoot you I’m brainless, but if you shoot me you’re famous” class photo, Raja’s career would be easily forgettable were it not for his run-ins with Kobe. Claiming he was only retaliating against Kobe’s dirty tactics, Raja made a name for himself in the ’06 playoffs when he unleashed a clothesline on Kobe that Big Van Vader would’ve been proud of. Raja later called Kobe “pompous” and “arrogant” and said he didn’t respect him, but Kobe only responded with the “I don’t even know who this guy is” bit.

The Buster Douglas to Kobe’s Mike Tyson, Childs has his own statue in the Kobe Haters Hall of Fame for what he did during a 2000 Knicks/Lakers game. Going face-to-chest with the taller Bryant, Childs popped Kobe with a quick one-two straight right and jab combo, then made some slick defensive moves to avoid whatever onslaught Kobe had planned. Kobe might have been able to get some revenge, but David Stern apparently had Childs sent to the same island as Jimmy Hoffa — he was rarely heard from again after that fight.

Despite winning four championships together, Kobe and Phil have never seemed to be exactly on the same page. Phil tried to guide Kobe through his early-career growing pains, which included arguments over Kobe’s role on the team and instances where Kobe responded to Phil’s criticism by purposely not shooting the ball to prove a point. When Phil retired in ’04, he aired Kobe out in his book The Last Season, but the two made up and reunited to win another title in ’09.

It was like the Spurs braintrust went into a lab and created Bowen to be the ultimate Kobe agitator. Coming out of nowhere to become one of the best defensive players in the League, Bowen was dirty, sneaky, and had absolutely no interest in the offensive side of the game — meaning he could devote 100% of his energy to getting on Kobe’s nerves. Although I can’t think of a memorable incident where Bowen caught Kobe with his infamous “ankle breaker,” that doesn’t mean he didn’t try on countless occasions.

This beef didn’t extend past Reggie’s retirement: Miller has gone on record saying Kobe is the NBA’s most complete player after Jordan, while Kobe has gone on record saying Reggie is the toughest player he’s guarded in his career. But on the court, they got into it. In the closing seconds of a 2002 game the Lakers had well in hand, Kobe jacked a three in Reggie’s face. Not a good idea. You see, Reggie might be skinny and awkward (well, he used to be skinny), but he’ll attack like an angry kangaroo in a second. The two squared off, Kobe threw a punch, and next thing you know they’re locked up and crashing into the scorer’s table. Reggie later told reporters that Kobe had “issues.” Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal were bystanders for this fight, which was like a sparring session compared to what they had in store two years later.

Not quite LeBron-vs.-DeShawn Stevenson, but a one-sided rivalry nonetheless. Smith brings the noise factor — he recently tweeted something like “Kobe is great except when he plays me” — and Kobe responds by handing him buckets and losses. But J.R. has had some big games against Kobe and is at least a notable thorn in his side. If nothing else, he gets credit for being one of the few younger dudes in the League that isn’t in awe of Kobe and goes at him like he would any ol’ dude from Jersey.

If you don’t count that whole felony conviction/impending jail term thing, this is one of the beefs Kobe probably lost. It started in Dec. 2006, when Gilbert walked into Staples Center one night and dropped 60 points on Kobe and the Lakers. After the game, Kobe said, “First of all, he shot 27 free throws. We as a team shot 30. Think about that,” then criticized Gilbert’s shot selection. Arenas, as usual, had fun with it: He went on a streak for a few weeks where instead of saying “Hibachi!” after hitting a shot, he said, “Quality shots!” to mock Kobe. “Ever since Kobe said I was lucky, I say ‘quality shots,'” Arenas said. “Maybe Kobe would say that was luck. It’s luck when you score 30 or 40, but luck can’t get you 50 or 60.” The next time they met, Kobe got the win, but Arenas gave him another 37 points. But due to Arenas’ injuries and now his legal issues, they haven’t faced off since.

We’re thinking Smush won’t get an invite when Kobe gets inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The NYC playground legend was the Lakers’ starting point guard for two seasons that Kobe would probably like to forget – when L.A. suffered back-to-back first-round playoff losses and Kobe had a terrible supporting cast. Smush was often the scapegoat for whatever went wrong, catching the wrath of Kobe and Phil Jackson. Now out of the League, he’s taken to blasting his ex-teammate in interviews by the bodega.

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  • http://twitter.com/amazingdesign AmazingDesign

    These are all on point, but you forgot to add ruben patterson. If you don’t remember he was the guy that originally called himself the kobe stopper.

  • jryu

    ^ nice catch, i remember that too! they traded patterson cause of that haha

  • http://www.sactownroyalty.com Willis

    Sorry, Smush Parker shouldn’t even be on this list and I hate Kobe. When it is raining outside, and Kobe is in the rain, Smush Parker is not, because he doesn’t get to be in the same rainstorm as Kobe. Smush being on this list is insulting to NBA fans everywhere.

  • nola

    these are all people that think they have something on kobe not people who’ve actually gotten into kobe’s head… i dont think matt barnes really got kobe frustrated at all…

  • The Proud Racist

    The only man that can get to Kobe is Michael Jordan for former is forever measure and compared to the latter!

  • Alee-Mo

    I thought Patterson got the nickname because he did OK while guarding Kobe in practice, then when he was a free agent his people pushed the “Kobe Stopper” thing to get him a nice deal. Seattle fell for it.

  • Rizwan

    Smush is WAY bitter. He cant expect to make the mistakes he did and not have just the leader, superstar and best player in the league at that time but a player as driven to win as Kobe not call him out.

    It is weird how Kobe is disliked. I think it is a mixture of things.

    1) His situation in LA – Despite being with Shaq, he still seemed unhappy. Perhaps resentment from other players about this comes to the fore. I am sure everyone would have loved to have been in Kobe’s shoes at that time when they ought to have won like 6 rings.

    2) Comparisons to MJ – The players coming up idolised MJ so having someone hear that this guy is better or as good as him would also have played a factor. Secondly, people would see this as a challenge, in that they curtailed the next MJ when another couldnt do it. A status thing maybe.

    3) The Colorado thing – thats got to be a factor.

    4) Perceived selfishness – players from around the league must talk. People like Smush who should have counted his lucky stars that he played with Kobe only complained. Perhaps linked to the other factor of stopping him, people wanted to call him out on and see whats he made of. There’s a lot of marking your territory in the league.

    5) People just dont like him – NOthing more to say about that.

    I, a Suns fan, love the guy.

  • Ric Hardwood

    Everyone that tries to get in Kobe’s head might have gotten lit up by Kobe at some point, but their purpose is not necesarrily to stop Kobe, but to stop Kobe from playing team basketball… A few days ago, Barnes kinda did that.

  • Dapro

    Many players on the court disliked him because let’s be honest he was an asshole during the majority of his career. Teammates and opponents disliked him for the way he carried himself. He tends to make “dirty” plays on the court and he talks alot of shit. Most players take the game in stride but Kobe always played like he had a vendetta against everyone including the Lakers. Kobe seems to have evolved as a man and person but it’s hard to shake that old perception.

  • Kermit The Washington

    One detail that was overlooked on the Raja Bell incidents…when talking to reporters about it afterwards, Kobe said “I don’t even know who this KID is”, even though Raja is like 3+ years older than Kobe. I always thought that was mad dope

  • Big Island

    I want to talk about how much I hate Kobe, but I made 2 mistakes. 1: I watched the Bruce Bowen video. God dammit I want to hit that dude. Why wouldn’t a coach put a scrub in, gentleman’s agreement to pay his fines, and have him just cheap shot the shit outta that guy? 2: You guys put Smush Parker on there because he blasted Kobe on a park bench. Really. Willis hit that dead on.

  • jzsmoove

    Kobe Bryant is a douche. That is all.

  • Shady

    Damn those Arenas highlights were sick. I can’t think of anyone else who did that while Kobe was guarding them. Why does he have to be a gun flaunting idiot?

  • Kermit The Washington

    @ Rizwan:

    I think you’re DEAD ON with your list of reasons why Kobe is so hated. ESPECIALLY the part about being compared all the time to MJ. I never thought about it like that before; that would make mad players jealous, and then to top it off he wasn’t happy winning championships, which made it mad worse.

  • Kermit The Washington

    @ Rizwan:

    I think you’re DEAD ON with your list of reasons why Kobe is so hated. ESPECIALLY the part about being compared all the time to MJ. I never thought about it like that before; that would make mad players jealous, and then to top it off he wasn’t happy winning championships with Shaq, which made it mad worse.

  • Drink the Haterade

    I am the biggest Kobe supporter and Kobe is selfish. You cant be arguably the games greatest scorer and not be selfish

  • Kermit The Washington

    stupid double-post; my fault.

    But the other thing I was gonna say is LOL @ Kobe trying to fight Chris Childs “within the rules” by throwing an elbow-punch instead of a real punch, and then getting rocked by a combo by Childs. I KNOW he was heated after that; wishing he just punched him when he had the chance!!


    can we add up how many rings all of kobe’s agitators have

  • Celts Fan

    @Rizwan – didn’t realize Smush played with Duncan (who CLEARLY was the best player in the league at the time.)

  • Celts Fan

    @Kwame – they got 18 rings. Any other hate?

  • Kermit The Washington

    LOL @ Celts Fan…

    why’d you have to go and do that, Kwame?! Geez…

  • The Proud Racist

    At post #20 — More than 18 Rings

    1 – Ray Allen
    4 – Monkey, sorry Shaq!
    12 – Phil
    4 – Bruce

  • jd

    Comon dime, if your gonna show the stuff other players pull on kobe. what about the chauncy billups off the back pass

  • Rizwan

    @ 22

    Phil doesnt have 12 rings, he has 10

    Bowen has only 3

    @ 19

    I wouldnt say he was clearly the best player then. He was up there but so was Kobe.

  • Clemo


    phil has 2 as a player!!!

  • Promoman

    I’m a Kobe fan but he did start that shit with Chris Childs.

  • Rizwan

    @ 24

    my bad, just checked it now

  • My Favorite Superhero

    I never realized how dirty a player Bowen was! He’s plays like that uncle who used to be good in high school, but now can’t play and just throws cheap shots at anyone with the ball!

  • Roman

    Phil does have 12 rings- 10 as a coach and 2 as a player (Knicks) + plus 1 more for this year!!

  • KnicksFan84

    Damn Phil Jackson does have boatload of rings!


    o…i didnt even realize ppl were countin phil jackson…i mean theyre on the same team as it were

  • OneZero

    apart from Shaq,

    any of those players would love to trade their skills and success with Kobe’s

    I’m just sayin’…

  • QQ

    Smush Parker on this list = Like the kid who can’t play that you bring to your rec leaugue, then after you drop 25 on the other team will talk shit about you to make himself feel better.

  • Ian

    god i miss bowen and the replacement we get is piece of shit jefferson. bowen was the best guarding kobe.

  • Ian

    btw smush shouldnt be on the list check out the names all good players except that scrub.

  • Ekstor

    Much like Kobe’s competition, Kobe has outlasted most of the players mentioned.

    Bowen really only bothered Kobe for a few years… Arenas less than a year… Bell a couple of years… Shaq now spends more time praising Kobe than bashing him.

  • Ekstor

    As for Smush, all you need to know is that the Heat, who were desperate for PG help and had one of the worst records in the league, signed Smush to a 2-year guaranteed contract and then dumped him only a few months into his first season.

  • Papa Smurf


    That first paragraph had me laughin’. Great analogy.

  • Smitty313

    Kobe gets hammered for the same stuff MJ use to do. Mj was a worse teammate than Kobe. But MJ was number one while Kobe was behind Shaq. Lets imagine if Kobe does the stuff Lebron does out there like Dance, the Hand Shakes, Yhe t shirts (Check My Stats, MVP), and other non sense Lebron has brought to the game he would get labeled as arrogant and selfish. If you are great not good you should acr like it. If someone else thinks im good why cant I carry myself that way.

  • Just Sad

    Fore reals? It must be a slow news day. The main reason why Kobe gets all the hate is because the media won’t stop writing crap about Kobe. Kobe has great marketing power and the mere mention of his name, whether positive or negative gets you hits. It’s a media driven reputation and persona. The man has his flaws, but so do many other nba players though you’ll hardly see articles repeatedly harping on it.

    Where are all the articles about Shaq’s agitators, or Lebron’s, R Wallace, Garnet, AI, MJ’s? Or even articles about how so and so is not a clutch shooter? If you litter the internet with articles about how Nash is not clutch, I’m sure eventually people will believe it too.

    Smitty is right, if Kobe acted like Lebron and did half the things Lebron did he would have been reamed by the media for being an arrogant **s. But you hardly ever see negative articles about Lebron. If you repeat something enough, every idiot will believe it (as in the missihng WMD’s).

  • Karen

    Bowen shouldnt be in that list period. sure he played great D in all but kobe respects him. I mean if you are going to put Bowen in the list might as well as put battier. The difference between him and say smush is their is the respect factor. Borwen hasnt said one negative thing about kobe, but you see guys like Kmart and JR earl Smith wants to show their toughness over twitter, while guys like battier do they talking on the floor.

    And what about dahntay jones? now see he was dirty and worthless, just like barnes.

  • Miles

    There wasnt 1 rookie on this list. YOu said in articale rookies are not afraid to treat Kobe like he has accomplished nothing! Thats so stupid its as foolish as this article. I love how the media continues to act like LBJ is complete opposite of Kobe. everything LBj does or attempts is based on Kobe. From moves on court to postgame interviews. The only difference is the media hates Kobe while they are forced to love LBJ. His bandwagon is large but dont think for a second players dont dislike LBJ and all teh ref assistance he gets.

    You could start a list for lBJ just like this and include:

    DaShawn Stevenson
    Rasheed Wallace
    Gerald Wallace
    Joakim Noah
    Brandon Haywood

    Every1 has players that try to go extra hard vs them its competition! Stop trying to make any case possibly to discredit Kobe and make LBJ look more favorable. Its bafaoonery = your better then that DIME MAG