How To Guard The Greats 101 | Tayshaun Prince Talks Difference In Defending Kobe Bryant And Lebron James

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Once again, there’s nothing like getting the inside scoop of professional basketball from the NBA players themselves. Not many people have or will know what it felt like to compete with the likes of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

But the lucky (or unlucky) ones that do can probably agree that those contests consisted of some sleepless nights beforehand. Tayshaun Prince can attest to that and was able to detail the difference in guarding the Black Mamba and the King. 

“They’re both different. With Kobe, there was a sense of, you had to make sure that you don’t let him get to his sweet spot because it was a rhythm thing. … With a Kobe it was a matter of don’t let him get to a sweet spot. He’s gonna be physical with you, he’s gonna try to wear you down, so once the fourth quarter comes he would get to those spots and everything else is butter.

With LeBron it was a matter of you gotta fight through 150 pick-and-rolls throughout the whole game.”

Prince is a retired NBA player who played the majority of his career on the Detroit Pistons, and was a part of that 2004 championship team that took down the Los Angeles Lakers at the height of their power in the NBA finals. Prince was an exceptional defender, evidenced by his four All-Defensive teams. His 6-foot-9 height paired with 212 pounds of muscle aided him in being a tenacious defender who held his ground against some of the best scorers in the game.

So naturally whenever the Pistons were playing the Kobe-led Lakers, or the LeBron-led teams, Prince was the man tasked with guarding these legends. Tall task for anybody to have to stay in front of Bean and Bron. 

But being the adept defender he was, he tried his hardest and did his homework night in and night out. Prince explained what it was like guarding the two players, and the difference between guarding these two players as well. 

“So it was two different things you had to worry about. With LeBron, it was pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll. With Kobe, it was a matter of don’t let him get to his sweet spot, he’s gonna beat you over three quarters, and during the fourth quarter, it’d be easier to get to his sweet spot.” Prince finished. 

Prince would agree that even though LeBron and Kobe had different playing styles, they could both get to their spot at will. Kobe, who could get to his sweet spot and hit rhythm shots could still get to the rim with little to no trouble, while LeBron doesn’t necessarily need screen-and-rolls to get to where he needs to as well. But when looking at film this was the most likely play style and game plan these two legends brought to the table when facing the Pistons. 

While many would love to break down and critique Prince’s words, this is firsthand experience from a primary defender who had to guard them in the regular season and postseason. Prince has a pretty good idea of what he’s talking about because he was also able to hold Kobe Bryant to 38 percent shooting from the field in their 2004 Finals series, helping Detroit win the championship that year. 

High-volume scorers are revered in sports, but some of the best defenders can go unsung if they aren’t household names. This was the case for Tayshaun Prince, but seeing how he was able to defend some of the greatest players in history, his ability to tell these stories of their games and what he had to do to stop them is fundamental to his legacy.