Friar Basketball

Video: Kobe Bryant vs. John Linehan in 1996

Kobe Bryant vs. John Linehan

John Linehan will go down as one of the greatest defensive players in Friar basketball history. The all-time NCAA career steals leader and two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year was the best on-ball defender I have ever seen. As Sports Illustrated’s Lars Anderson wrote in a feature on Linehan in February 2002, “Linehan’s defensive excellence is founded on a mixture of guile, intelligence, timing, and quickness. He’s listed at 5’9″, but he’s closer to 5’7″, and his low center of gravity helps him maintain body control as he zips around the floor like a water bug.”

We so often hear about defenders who “get into you” when guarding. Linehan got under you. It wasn’t just Linehan’s quickness that made him great, but his anticipation skills and innate ability to work his way around screens. You simply couldn’t shake him. It was constant pressure for 40 minutes. Linehan was a one man press who, at the least, forced teams to start possessions deeper into the shot clock than they would prefer. At his best, Linehan completely ruined offensive game plans and utterly frustrated the best guards in the Big East.

Anderson’s article also helped immortalize Kobe Bryant’s quote about Linehan in the 2001 NBA Playoffs. “You may laugh, but it’s a guy named John Linehan,” Kobe responded when asked who was the best defender he ever faced.

Bryant and Linehan were AAU teammates in the mid-90s and battled when Lower Merion took on Chester in the PIAA Class AAAA State Finals in 1996. The full game popped up on Youtube recently.


  1. Pingback: Video: Kobe Bryant vs. John Linehan in 1996 – Today Topic

  2. Carl

    March 30, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    KF, I agree with you wholeheartedly in declaring Linehan the best on-ball defender these eyes have ever seen. Going on 20yrs and I’ve never seen anyone totally destroy top talent with nothing but in your face D and peskiness.

    He wrecks Ron Artest in a game vs St. Johns if you can find that tape. Single-handedly flustering Kobe + Artest = Laker Killer! Shoulda got a contract with the C’s. =P

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