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“Hand in the Face”: 2x NBA Champion Reveals How He Manipulated Kobe Bryant’s Ego to Adversely Impact His Shot Making

Kobe Bryant’s dominance in the league is an undisputed claim that nobody can ever deny. A fearless rim attacker, Bryant was known for being unguardable and a formidable opponent for his rival teams. Only a handful of players can claim to have managed to stop Kobe defensively, and 2x NBA champion Shane Battier is one of them.

Bryant was aware of his offensive prowess as an unguardable menace for his rival teams and took extreme pride in it. However, he did mention a few defenders who had the galls to lock in and contest him in his book, ‘The Mamba Mentality’. A chapter named ‘Kobe Stoppers’, in the book mentioned Battier, who gave his all to contest against Kobe during his playing days in the NBA.

In a recent appearance on the Knuckleheads Podcast, Battier reminisced his time playing against the Mamba, especially the moments when he had to lock him defensively.

Battier would often fake his humility in front of Kobe, catching the 5x NBA champion off-guard. Remembering all of these moments, Battier said,

“I was trying to be the human yellow light for Kobe. I was just trying to pause a little bit. And you know, he said in his book ‘No one could stop me essentially, and I had great muscle memory that the hand in the face trick that Shane used to do, it just didn’t work.’ [Shane wishpering] It worked a little bit! But he said something really funny. He said, ‘Shane always downplayed his ability to play against me. And I saw that it’s false humility and I attacked him because of it.’ And I’m like, ‘he’s right.’ 

Shane Battier and Kobe Bryant were engaged in mind games that became unique aspects of their faceoffs against each other. Battier became well known for his unorthodox defending, especially his hand-in-the-face technique that effectively kept Kobe guarded to an extent.

However, being the determinant and adamant player that Kobe was, the Mamba was hellbent on finding a solution for Battier’s tactic to fail in his favor.

Kobe Bryant was determined to fail Shane Battier’s defensive tactic

Shane Battier and Kobe Bryant had some epic face-offs against each other during Battier’s time with the Houston Rockets. Battier had noticed that a long (deep) two-point dribble jumper was the weakest move that Kobe could pull in a game.

Though Battier’s hand-in-the-face move was in a way an ingenious tactic to guard Kobe, the Mamba had figured the trick out and was hell-bent on beating this tactic. As Battier revealed on the Knuckleheads Podcats, Bryant had figured Battier’s false humility to keep him under check defensively.

Stats prove that Kobe Bryant figured out Shane Battier’s trick and had moved up his sleeves to decimate Battier’s defense. Some of Kobe Bryant’s most memorable matchups against Battier were during the 2009 playoffs, where Bryant pulled off an incredible 40-point performance against the Rockets.

Furthermore, Kobe Bryant’s multiple explosive games against Shane Battier resulted in the Black Mamba dropping 30- and 40-point games regularly. In his career 37 games versus Battier, Kobe averaged 28.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, proving that the Black Mamba was a serious challenge for any defender in the league.

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