No. 2: Kobe Bryant vs. Damian Lillard, Apr. 10th, 2013
"“Man, that boy is serious. That boy is serious. And he’s not afraid of anything.”"
There are statistics one could use to explain the mystique of this late-season Blazers-Lakers game — there’s the one of Bryant playing the full 48-minute duration; or that one where he and Lillard combine for 53 first-half points — but does anything wrap it in a bow quite like that quote does?
It didn’t take long for Damian Lillard to become a household name in his NBA career, but few moments elevated him to star status quicker than his duel with Kobe Bryant in the final year of his prime.
With the Lakers jostling for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs, the Lakers needed a vintage performance from Bryant. And they got it. But he certainly had to work for it.
The final box score does it justice, too. Bryant exploded for a 47-point, 8-rebound, 5-assist game on 14-of-27 shooting, and 18-of-18 from the line. The Lakers needed every bit of it, nearly trailing by double-figures at the half.
In contrast, the future 2012-13 Rookie of the Year poured on 38 points and nine assists, shooting 12-of-25 from the field, 5-of-11 from deep, and a perfect 9-of-9 from the charity stripe.
Bryant said something else in that postgame interview that would later become the anthem for opposing teams when they battled the Portland Trail Blazers:
"“He has the whole package. He’s got the 3-ball, the midrange, get all the way to the rim obviously. And we just had to go get him. We just had to say ‘the hell with it,’ and go trap him.”"
Eight years later, who could’ve imagined?
The two seemed to relish the first quarter battle in particular, as Lillard matched Bryant point-for-point (17), and provided Bryant with perhaps his last great, if not the second-to-last, high-stakes duel in his career. The effect? Lillard later said Bryant was the “greatest player he ever played against.”