Kobe Bryant won his first championship 20 years ago in 2000. That was the start of something special, not only for Bryant but also for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant would go on to have a successful NBA career and would win five NBA titles with the Lakers.
During the Lakers 2000 championship run, they ran into a talented Portland Trail Blazers team, and Bryant had a tough matchup with NBA player Bonzi Wells.
Who is Bonzi Wells?
Wells played his college basketball at Ball State University from 1994 to 1998. At Ball State, Wells had a successful career. In his first season, he was named the Mid-American Conference Freshman Player of the Year. That season he averaged 15.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.8 steals per game. The next season he took his game to the next level. Wells averaged 25.4 points and 8.8 rebounds and was named the MAC Player of the Year.
Two years later, he would go on to be named the MAC Player of the Year for the second time in college. Wells accomplished a lot as a senior. He led the NCAA in steals and was an all-American. Ball State retired his No. 42 after his college career. Playing at a mid-major school, Wells made a name for himself. He finished as the conference’s all-time leader in points (2,485) and steals (347).
In 1998, the Detroit Pistons selected him with the 11th pick in the NBA draft. His draft rights were later traded to the Trail Blazers for the team’s 1999 first-round pick. In his first few years in Portland, Wells primarily came off the bench on a team that was one of the best in the Western Conference for a few years. He spent his first six seasons with Portland and averaged 13.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists.
Bonzi Wells career after Portland
After his time with the Trail Blazers, Wells joined the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2003-04 season. In Memphis, Wells served as a key role player on the bench and averaged 12.3 points per game during his first season with the team. He would only play two seasons in Memphis, but he helped lead the team to back-to-back playoff appearances in the Western Conference.
During the 2005-06 season, he joined the Sacramento Kings toward the second half of the season. He spent time in the starting lineup and coming off the bench in Sacramento and averaged 13.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. After his time in Sacramento, Wells had signed with the Houston Rockets and played 79 games with the Rockets in two seasons. He joined the New Orleans Hornets toward the end of the 2007-08 season and played in 22 games coming off the bench averaging 8.8 points per game. Wells finished his NBA career playing in 591 games averaging 12.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.3 steals.
Bonzi Wells gave Kobe Bryant problems in the playoffs
During the 2000 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers came in as the No. 1 seed, and the Trail Blazers were the No. 3 seed. The two teams met in the Western Conference Finals, and it was a battle. The series went to seven games as the Lakers would defeat the Trail Blazers and go on to win the NBA championship.
For Bryant, he had some difficulties against Wells. Bryant was a guest on Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes podcast and talked about the series against Portland. “He was a nightmare matchup for me,” Bryant said about Wells. Wells was a physical player, and at 6-foot-5 210 pounds, he had some size on him. Bryant credited Wells and Stacey Augmon for helping him develop his post defense presence.