Raja Bell made a name for himself as a tough, no-nonsense defender. He was often tasked to guard the opposing team’s star players, but one matchup made a mark on him that he would never forget.
Kobe and Raja Bell rivalry
Bell and Kobe had several intense battles on the court, but it was nothing but respect between the two after these hard-fought games. The heated rivalry between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers reached its peak from 2006 to 2007, where they met in consecutive Playoff battles.
The numbers were not ideal for the Suns. The Lakers had the edge in playoff series record, 8-5. In playoff games, the Lakers also had the edge, 40-28. The Suns had to do everything to give the Lakers a run for their money. Naturally, chirpiness happened on the court headlined by Raja and Kobe.
You probably noticed the Suns were up 14 points with seven and a half minutes to go in the game. Kobe used that moment to fuel his team to win like he always did. L.A. won with Bryant scoring 40 points. For The Black Mamba, the hate was real.
“Raja [Bell] and Steve and all of those good guys. Hated them. No question. But at the same time, I loved them, because they brought the best out of me and my teammates.”Kobe Bryant, AZ Central
For Raja, what happened on the court, stayed on the court.
Kobe Bryant was the greatest competitor
To be fair, only a few could limit Kobe in his prime. The Black Mamba could not be stopped, just limited. Raja offered the highest remarks a defender could provide for a scorer.
“There wasn’t a greater competitor. I played against and with some of the greatest competitors, and there were none better than Kobe. There were none more calculating and none more cutthroat and more dedicated to the task than Kobe Bryant. I can say that definitively… He was a true champion.”Raja Bell, AZ Central
Looking back, Bell was grateful for the memories and the battles, as they made him a better player. With Kobe’s untimely passing in 2020, everything that happened suddenly had a deeper meaning. For Raja Bell and other defenders, there’s one thing they picked up from years of guarding Kobe Bryant – a lesson only the greatest can give. Don’t make them mad, it’s only going to get worse for you.