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Kobe Bryant is in the stage of his career at which people start asking him for lists of things. He's already listed the top five players he's faced in his career, featuring such luminaries as Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

Jordan's Bulls made Kobe's list of the top five toughest teams he's faced -- but neither team LeBron James has played for did. In no particular order:

San Antonio Spurs

Bryant/DuncanNoah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Sacramento Kings

Chris WebberJed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Boston Celtics

Kobe BryantAP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Detroit Pistons

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Chicago Bulls

Kobe Bryant and Michael JordanVincent LaForet/AFP/Getty Images

The Bulls, sure. The Spurs, no surprise there. The Kings, though? Remember, during Kobe's championship days, the Kings featured Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber and others. Unsurprisingly, Kobe's got a long memory.

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Michael Jordan & Kobe Bryant Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images

In his 20 NBA seasons, Kobe Bryant has faced a number of brilliant players: vets near the end of their careers, such as Karl Malone and John Stockton; fellow stars who entered the league around his time, such as Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett; newer standouts such as Dwyane Wade and Stephen Curry.

None of those made his top five "toughest players to face" list. As relayed by our own Baxter Holmes, here it is:

Michael Jordan? No surprise. LeBron James? Not really either. Kevin Durant? When he's healthy, he's electric. And Hakeem Olajuwon? There's a reason they call him The Dream. The biggest surprise, perhaps, is Clyde Drexler -- but no one is about to claim he wasn't great.

The key point is the second thing Bryant told Holmes: It is hard to choose a top five from 1996 to 2015.

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Dirk Nowitzki nails Pau Gasol with an epic burn on Twitter

December 15, 2015
Dec
15

When the Chicago Bulls host the Charlotte Hornets tonight, Pau Gasol will become the 116th player in NBA history to play 1,000 games, and he wanted to celebrate the milestone with his 3.25 million Twitter followers.

Dallas Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki -- who is 20th all-time in games played, and who battled Gasol in multiple playoff series -- quickly chimed in with a suggestion for Pau.

Wow, that's rough. That's the Twitter version of -- well, of getting dunked on, like Nikola Vucevic did to Gasol in that video.

Fortunately, the five-time All-Star took the virtual posterization in stride.

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Jimmy ButlerRocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Chicago Bulls wing Jimmy Butler has a lot to be proud of. Drafted 30th overall in 2011, the former Marquette player has outperformed nearly everyone's expectations as a pro, earning himself back-to-back spots on the All-Defensive second team, a 2015 NBA All-Star berth and last season's Most Improved Player award. He also signed a five-year, $90 million deal this offseason.

All of this came after a difficult upbringing -- as documented in 2011 on this site -- in which his mother kicked him out of the house at 13 with the words: "I don't like the look of you. You gotta go."

But Butler does not want to dwell on any of that.

From Bryan Smith in Chicago Magazine:

Still, he loathes reliving the past -- so much so that he has removed the rearview mirror on his car (yes, really) as a symbolic reminder to never look back. His coach at Marquette University, Buzz Williams, says Butler was so sensitive about his upbringing that he swore Williams to secrecy while playing for him.

Smith continues:

When I ask why he hates talking about the past so much, Butler shifts uncomfortably on the sectional in the grand San Diego house. "It's because I don't ever want that to define me," he says. "I hated it whenever it came up because that's all anybody ever wanted to talk about. Like, that hasn't gotten me to where I am today. I'm a great basketball player because of my work. I'm a good basketball player because of the people I have around me. And if I continue to be stuck in the past, then I won't get any better. I won't change, I'll get stuck as that kid. That's not who I am. I'm so far ahead of that. I don't hold grudges. I still talk to my family. My mom. My father. We love each other. That's never going to change." In fact, the day I visited Butler, his father was staying with him.

Now, we have no trouble with Butler's feelings nor his desire to make a symbolic gesture, but removing an essential car component might not be the best way to go about this. Perhaps if Butler makes a point to frequently check his sideviews and over his shoulder, he can get away with it. Still ... we wouldn't recommend it.

But hey, we're not about to tell him what to do. He's an All-Star -- and Mark Wahlberg's good friend, among many other things as captured in Smith's expansive piece.

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Jordan/Shaq/MagicGetty Images

NBA top fives are in the air. Kevin Durant gave his list two weeks ago, and now, one of Durant's picks has made his own choices.

In an interview with The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, former Los Angeles Lakers (and Orlando Magic ... and Miami Heat ... and a few other teams) big man Shaquille O'Neal was asked his all-time starting five. His answer:

"Bill Russell won 11 championships. Charles Barkley is my guy, but I like Karl Malone. Then there's the guy who made me who I am -- Dr. J [Julius Erving]. I've got Michael [Jordan] at the two. Then, I'm going to go with the big guard with Magic Johnson at the one."

Now, O'Neal made sure NOT to put an exclamation point on his list, saying:

"I see a problem with answering these questions. A lot of people get their feelings hurt. Then some of you guys [reporters] be trying to start trouble, like Shaq leaving Kobe [Bryant] off. Then it's Shaq and Kobe.

"But that's my top five for playing reasons and what they did. Russell doesn't have high [statistical] numbers, but with 11 championships, nobody is beating that."

We're not doing that, Shaq! We know you're mending fences with former teammate Kobe Bryant and certainly wouldn't leave him off as a dig. Heck, he wouldn't be on this writer's top five, either -- not because Kobe hasn't been great (he has), but when you get to the upper reaches of the NBA's all-timers list, it's really, really, really competitive.

Having said that, O'Neal did make some interesting choices; Malone and Erving, in particular, don't appear on a great deal of these lists. So we ask you:

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