From playing Kyrie Irving, betting $50K on it, to smoking Tracy McGrady during a camp in Germany, Kobe’s had a fair share of epic 1-on-1 clashes. And what do they all have in common? Bryant came out on top in all. It makes you wonder – did anyone ever beat Kobe in a game of 1-on-1? Well…
No one. That’s what I do. If there’s gonna be a player to beat me, he retired on that last shot in Utah in ’98.Kobe Bryant, Lakers Nation
Newsflash – the person Kobe was referring to is Michael Jordan – Bryant’s measuring stick ever since he had gotten into the league. Bean left the door open for being on the wrong side of the scoreboard for the first time in his basketball career. Well, just a few years earlier, MJ did the same.
Back in ’13, Mike was asked about who he wanted to play 1-on-1. Guys he mentioned – Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James. But according to MJ, Kobe is the only guy who would’ve stood a chance.
I don’t think I would lose — other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves.Michael Jordan, NBA 2K
Kobe was the ultimate emulator. At some points, he seemed like MJ’s tribute act. From the way he walked to the way he celebrated big baskets – Kobe did everything like Mike. And he never ran away from it.
Now, would being Jordan’s carbon copy have been enough for Kobe to keep his undefeated streak going? I’m not sure. In fact, no one is. It’s all hypothetical at this point.
We do have a small sample size of their NBA matchups to judge it by, but that in and of itself isn’t a true representation of one’s 1-on-1 ability. That leaves us with guessing and arguing. And while we do that, Kobe’s record will remain intact. He’s said it himself, ‘I’m only going to care about something that I know I can definitively win. If it’s not something I can definitively win, I’m not going to pay attention to it.‘
So Kobe never cared about hypotheticals – he only cared about what happened. And what happened is no one has ever beaten him 1-on-1. That’s the only thing that mattered to Black Mamba.