How to Shut Kobe Bryant Down: The Reverse Psychology

I am no fan of Kobe Bryant, but I must give the man his due. Throughout the 2010 playoffs he would just hit one ridiculous shot after another. Oddly enough, when you just figured he was going to explode and “get his” in Game 7, he did nothing of the sort. As a defensive stopper (although I did once score 4 points in a high school basketball game), my mentality in guarding Kobe would not be to talk smack to him, boo him, or disrespect him – it would be to shower him with praise.

We have all learned that trash talk has never gotten a Kobe defender anywhere. (Anyone remember The Kobe Stopper? Ruben Patterson? I didn’t think so. Anyhow, that talk stopped after one playoff game.) So, if Game 7 of the 2010 finals were any indication of how to stop Kobe, it’s that you start praising him and cementing his legacy before and during an entire playoff series.

Allow me to paint the scene... with one notable exception. Ray Allen has been dropped from the Boston Celtics and a free agent named Kevin Leu has been signed to take his place – a totally believable scenario – before Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.

Scene 1. Staples Arena – Evening

Fans roar furiously as members of the Los Angeles Lakers head to center court for tipoff. With a confident swagger, KOBE BRYANT leads PAU GASOL, DEREK FISHER, RON ARTEST, aka the village idiot, and ANDREW BYNUM into position.

The cheers quickly turn into deafening boos as the Boston Celtics make their way to midcourt, led by KEVIN GARNETT, PAUL PIERCE, RAJON RONDO, RASHEED WALLACE, and a strappingly handsome stallion of a man, KEVIN LEU.

Kevin Leu has been given the unenviable task of guarding Kobe.

Leu takes his position next to Kobe, who stands 5 inches taller, but is immediately dwarfed by the devastating good-looks of Leu.

"Hey Kobe, I just wanted to start off by saying what an honor it is to play with you. Maybe after the game we can grab a brewskie or something, or play Frisbee with the kids."

Kobe is in complete game mode. He ignores Leu and elbows him out of the way for position.

"Nice elbow. Have you been working out? Because your biceps look amazing."

Bynum wins the jump ball and immediately Fisher brings the ball up court. Kobe runs off several screens as Leu keeps pace.

"The ball’s coming to you. I can feel it. I can’t stop you, but at least I want to put a hand up within two seconds of you hoisting up a shot. That way I’m not completely embarrassed."

Kobe comes off a Gasol screen and catches the ball 18 feet from the basket on the right elbow. He sizes Leu up as he squares towards the basket.

"Whichever way you go, you’re going to score. You’re the world’s best."

Kobe dribbles to his right towards the baseline. Leu stays in front of him. As he makes his way to the baseline, Kobe dribbles hard, pump fakes, getting Leu in the air, before exploding off the ground for a 12 foot jumper. Nothing but net.

Kobe and Leu run down to the opposite end of the floor.

"All day on me. All day. I’ve dreamed of you destroying me and I can’t believe it’s actually going to happen today. This is SOO awesome!"

Pierce scores on a drive to the basket. The Lakers come back the other way. This time Kobe posts up the shorter Leu, as the rest of the Lakers isolate.

"Posting me up? Good strategy. You’re far superior of a player and this will be like taking candy from a baby."

Kobe receives the pass from Artest, after Artest spends 10 seconds dribbling around the backcourt while being double-teamed. Kobe backs Leu into the paint and drop steps off his right shoulder for an easy left-handed bank shot.

4 – 2.

Kobe and Leu run towards the other end.

"Do you think I can have your shoes after the game?"

Rondo misses a 12 foot jumper, but Garnett is there for the putback.

4 – 4.

Fast forward. 4th quarter, 1:12 left to go.

82 – 78, Celtics up by 4. Kobe is 32 for 34, with 67 points. Lakers are inbounding the ball from half court.

"What did I tell you? You have just been layin a whoopin on me. Having your way with me left and right… It’s like I’m Paris Hilton and you’re making a sex tape."

Kobe catches the ball 30 feet out as the rest of the Lakers clear out. Kobe takes several seconds before Gasol comes high, screening Leu. Garnett is slow to flash and Kobe pulls up, hitting a 3.

82 – 81, :51 seconds left.

Kobe and Leu run up the court. Leu has 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals, but he is losing his voice.

"Dude, Gasol did NOT have to come up on that screen. You would have scored anyway. No one can guard you. Secret Service couldn’t guard you! I got that one from Lil’ Penny in those Nike ads back in the 90s. Remember that ad? That was great. But seriously, Secret Service COULDN’T guard you. First of all, they wear those suits and dress shoes – no way they can keep up with you on this court. Secondly, I don’t think guns would be allowed. The refs would HAVE to call a technical on that. Thirdly, those ear pieces would be unfair, because who knows what kind of signals they’re trying to steal and relay to their other teammates."

Wallace misses a 3 from top of the arc.

On the other end, Kobe is doubled by Leu and Pierce. Artest dribbles around for 23 seconds before throwing up a fade-away baseline 3-pointer that catches nothing but air.

Garnett rebounds the ball, but throws an ill-advised outlet pass that is stolen by Kobe.

PHIL JACKSON quickly signals for a timeout.

82 – 81, :08 seconds left.

Kobe comes out of the time out. Everyone in the Staples Center knows who is getting the ball.

"Oh man, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for - Game 7, best player in the world, ready to cement his legacy. I can’t WAIT for you to turn me into a highlight reel play that will be shown for all time! How about a shot like Jordan over Russell? Or Jordan over Ehlo? Magic over Parish and McHale? Man, that would be sweet."

Kobe comes off three screens, before catching the ball at half-court. He quickly dribbles hard to his right.

Leu yells out to his teammates as he stays in front of Kobe.

"NOBODY HELP ME OUT. Kobe is scoring on me, and ME ONLY!"


Kobe is 20 feet out…


"Here it comes! Here it comes!"

Kobe stops 16 feet out, plants and fakes a spin into the key with his shoulders before turning back around and rising up…

"I’m throwing this hand up, but it’ll do no good…"

Kobe releases the ball out of his hands, just as the buzzer sounds. The ball is in perfect arc as Kobe falls back down to earth. Kobe’s hand still in the air…

The ball begins its downward decent… down… down… down into inevitability.


It bounces hard off the rim and onto the court, rolling harmlessly away as photographers rush the floor. Staples Center is stunned as the Boston Celtics rush towards each other, piling on top of Leu.

Leu enjoys the closeness of male bodies.

For some reason, Artest is also celebrating with the Celtics, jumping up and down, kissing DOC RIVERS.


"Many, many years later, Kobe would explain that he had just never had anyone play defense the way that Kevin Leu had. While he had heard criticism, boos, trash talk, endured physical play, played against double teams, triple teams, taller, shorter, quicker, and bigger defenders, he had never heard the kind of lavish praise from a defender that was heaped on him by Leu. Kobe would say, “he just expected so much out of me, I just didn’t have anyone to scowl at during that last shot or to think about how I was wronged by him in some disrespecting way. He wanted me to win, and that was just… weird."

Leu was let go the next season and never picked up again by another NBA team, but ironically, Leu and Kobe did end up getting an apartment together during the offseason. Shortly after that, a restraining order was taken out against Leu by Kobe. Leu maintains that it was all just a misunderstanding and he thought Kobe liked massages. It is believed that Leu now goes by the name, Coby Briant."


And that, my friends, is how you guard Kobe Bryant. I'm still a free agent, if anyone out there is interested...

Coby Briant

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