The more titles Kobe Bryant accumulated, the bigger the target on his back became. Ruben Patterson was one of those players determined to stop the Los Angeles Lakers’ reign in the early 2000s. So much so that he promoted himself as the “Kobe Stopper.” Bryant was aware of his former teammate’s antics. But he didn’t believe Patterson was serious about containing him and the self-given tag was for other reasons.
The real reason
Patterson spent his first season in the NBA donning the Lakers jersey together with Kobe in the 1998-99 NBA season. The following year, he left for Seattle, and around this time, he started calling himself the “Kobe Stopper.”
Later in the early 2000s, the alias entered mainstream consciousness. During this time, Patterson was a guard for the Portland Trail Blazers — one of the real threats in the Western Conference who could oust the Lakers from their throne.
The catch was, Patterson was not a Kobe Stopper. The Philly native even hit a ridiculous game-tying three right in his face in a regular-season game.
Kobe knew of Patterson’s self-given alias. And being his good friend, Kobe understood why Patterson was telling everyone that he was the only guy who could contain the Black Mamba.
”Well, I thought that was just a business decision for him. I even called Ruben, I said ‘Ruben, if you needed me to come out and say ‘Ruben Patterson plays the best defense on me out of anybody else in the league', I would’ve said that for you. I would have helped you get a new contract. Just let me know,’” Bryant said, per ESPN.
Patterson should’ve heeded Kobe’s advice. He shouldn’t have gone around NBA circles telling everyone he was the “Kobe Stopper.” That crazy game-tying 3-pointer Kobe hit over him has been forever ingrained in our memories as the moment the Black Mamba foiled his self-proclaimed assassin.
Patterson had a good stint in Portland. But he got into trouble with his teammates and his coach. He also demanded to either get more playing time or be traded. He was shipped to the Denver Nuggets in the middle of the 2005-06 season.
After one season in Denver, Patterson donned the Milwaukee Bucks jersey, where he put up career numbers. But alas, his performance wasn’t enough to land him a long-term team. Patterson spent his final season in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers before trying out his luck abroad.