Having played against hundreds of different teams during his storied 20 year career, Kobe Bryant has a lot of rival squads he could choose as his toughest. However, he narrowed down the list to five teams that gave him a challenge worth remembering. From short-term Western Conference foes to franchise rivals, "The Black Mamba's" 20 year career has given us some memorable match ups.
San Antonio SpursBryant would do battle with fellow Western Conference stalwart and one-team man Tim Duncan on numerous occasions. However, over the course of his career, he would consistently face a stiff test in the form of the "Kobe Stopper" Bruce Bowen.
Chicago BullsA no-brainer for this list, fans were fortunate enough to see a prime Michael Jordan play against Bryant who is arguably his doppelgänger. For Bryant, it was a welcome opportunity to go head-to-head with what he could eventually become.
Detroit PistonsArmed with a super-team that included three Hall of Famers in Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, Bryant would learn a humbling lesson in the upset against the Larry Brown-led Detroit Pistons. Characterized by their famous "defense wins championships" motto, this ragtag band of underdogs took advantage of the Lakers' lack of chemistry and stole the title from under Bryant's nose.
Boston CelticsIn two legendary match ups between two of the most storied franchises in the NBA, Bryant's Lakers would meet the Boston Celtics in 2008 and 2010. Going up against the original "Big 3", Bryant win his first NBA Championships without former teammate Shaquille O'Neal.
ESPN NBA's Baxter Holmes reported that these five were the "top-five toughest teams that he’s faced in his career":
In a nor-cal vs. so-cal war, Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers battled an uber-talented Kings squad led by Chris Webber. The Lakers would narrowly get past the Kings in a memorable seven game series in the 2002 Western Conference Finals.