Kenyon Martin was a problem in his heyday. A physical defender, strong and fast for his size – these skills enabled K-Mart to defend any player from the 2 to 5 positions. Martin was also an intelligent defender as he often forced the opposing player to make uncomfortable shots. Still, there were a few guys that would give Martin a headache. The power forward named the toughest players he’s had to defend, and one who was just impossible to beat.
Martin names Kobe and Tim Duncan as tough to guard
Martin played in the Eastern Conference with the New Jersey Nets and suited up for the Denver Nuggets in the West, so he had a great overview of the entire league. The Nets team he was in battled Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in the 2002 NBA Finals. Looking back, Martin named Kobe as one of the toughest to guard because The Black Mamba had different moves to counter defense – Kobe made you choose a lesser evil.
When he moved to the Western Conference, as a power forward Martin got a healthy dose of greatness at his position – Dirk, KG, Timmy. What struck Martin was how Duncan played at his own pace. As a defender, one of Kenyon’s tricks was to force the other player to play outside their own pace and commit turnovers in the process. Duncan seemed immune to that.
Both Bryant and TD were a nightmare to guard, but the toughest to guard of all time was one Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal.
The most dominant player ever
Shaq played the center position while Martin mostly played at power forward. Aside from the size disadvantage, there’s also the heft disadvantage. In the 2002 finals, O’Neal weighed 395 pounds while Martin was around 233 pounds (or even lighter.) The Big Diesel had his way en route to a sweep – even the likes of Dikembe Mutombo could not stop the Lakers center.
“No guard here man like father time can guard Shaq. So trust me like there was no stopping that man dog, just no. The only player ever did not shoot anything outside of the paint. Just think about it – they put in rules becasue of him.”Kenyon Martin, “No Chill with Gilbert Arenas”
Just how dominant was that Finals series? Shaq was named the finals MVP with a 27.2 points per game average. What makes O’Neal insane is the speed and skill level he had at almost 400 pounds.
Martin wasn’t the only one who had problems with Shaq at that time. At his peak, no other player had success limiting Shaq’s production. Only injuries and age stopped The Big Diesel’s dominance. (Kobe would say lack of dedication to physical preparation). As always, only one has managed to stop even the greatest and most dominant players – father time.