Kyrie Irving never backed down from a challenge. He’s one of those players who will go at you no matter what. Even when he first came into the league, he was ready to go at the best of the best.
After winning the Rookie of the Year for the 2011-12 season, Irving had a lot of confidence going for himself. Going into Team USA camp, Irving wanted to take on one of the NBA greats in a game of one-on-one. That player was Kobe Bryant. Irving looked up to Bryant a lot when he first came into the league and saw him as a mentor. Even though Irving was pushing this to happen, Bryant did not want any parts of it.
Why Bryant denied the one-on-one game
When Irving came to Bryant about the challenge, Bryant could not take Irving seriously. Here you have a player who just finished his rookie season in the league, and he wants to take on one of the best players in the history of the league. All Bryant could do was laugh at that time. Both players went back and forth in an argument. At one point during the discussion, Bryant told Irving that he just came out of high school. Irving only played in 11 games at Duke before declaring for the draft, but in Bryant’s eyes, he still came out of high school.
Irving was not backing down from the trash talk given by Bryant, and it was fueling the fire. Originally, Irving put $50,000 on the table, and the loser would have to donate it to charity. But still, Bryant was not budging. Bryant did not think it would be a challenge going up against the younger Irving. Even though it would have been a great matchup to see, it never happened.
The two did face off in a game
Though the two players never played one-on-one against each other, they did battle it out on the court during a game. The Los Angeles Lakers traveled to Ohio to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. During the third quarter of the game, the Cavaliers were on offense, and Bryant had the task of guarding Irving. For people that know how Bryant is, he always wanted to defend the opponent’s best player, and that’s what he did on this possession.
Irving tried to put a few moves on Bryant, but the Black Mamba stood his ground. As the shot clock was expiring, Irving tried to get a shot off, but Bryant rejected it. That might have been a small taste of what Irving would have got if he did play one-on-one with Bryant.
Who would have won if they played one-on-one?
If the two had played during that moment, Bryant would have likely come out on top. Bryant was still in good physical shape and was one of the top scorers in the league. He averaged 27.9 points per game, so there would not have been an issue with him scoring on a smaller defender in Irving.
Irving would have had difficulty scoring on Bryant. Yes, Irving does possess the excellent ball-handling ability, but could he have got past Bryant or created an open shot for himself? That’s something NBA fans will never know, but they will always remember when Bryant got the upper hand on Irving during that possession when they took on each other.