Tony Allen got a sweet gift from Kobe Bryant on Friday night: a signed pair of kicks, with an inscription calling Allen the toughest defender that The Black Mamba went against during his 20-year career.

Bryant and Allen both sat out the Memphis Grizzlies 112-95 road win against the Los Angeles Lakers due to shoulder and knee injuries.

Kobe respects TA’s willingness and ability to check him one-on-one.

Per The Commercial Appeal:

“He’s the only one that really took the challenge of playing straight up,” Bryant said about Allen. “You know, he wasn’t looking for help. He wasn’t looking for support. He is physical. He’s tall and he’s quick.”

 

Bryant continues to take this season in stride, refusing to grade his nightly performances and preferring to reflect on his career.

 

“I’ve always felt like I had a purpose. My purpose was to try to be the best basketball player I could be, and everything I did in life was looked at through that funnel,” Bryant said. “So whether people agree or disagree or had a different view of how my life or career should be, I didn’t let that get in the way. I had one direction — my North Star — and I went to it.”