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Richard Jefferson ranks his toughest NBA Finals opponents


Richard Jefferson listed his four toughest NBA Finals opponents, putting Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal atop his list.

The Arizona standout went to the NBA Finals as a rookie but logged decent minutes in the postseason as a member of the New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets).

It’s difficult to see him ranking Bryant and O’Neal as his toughest all-around opponents, considering he was still a rookie in the league and hard-pressed to fully grasp the enormity of the stage, let alone the competition.

Jefferson shared the court with a Hall of Famer in Jason Kidd, an experienced shooting guard in Kerry Kittles, and a young rim-destroying Kenyon Martin. Yet the Nets were swept 4-0 by a Lakers team that ran mostly unopposed during that postseason.

Jefferson actually has the Splash Brothers twice in his list, first with Kevin Durant at No. 2 and then without him at No. 4.

The Golden State Warriors have proved to be the nemesis of many players, but Jefferson has been notorious discussing how unfair it was to have a team that strong on the court. The longtime NBA veteran was one of the most outspoken voices — even after retiring — hoping Durant wouldn’t return to the Bay Area.

The 2017 Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 in the NBA Finals — with their lone win coming in Game 4 after burying a record 24 3-pointers.

Jefferson was victorious in that 2016 NBA Finals, as the Cavs came back from a 3-1 deficit to earn their lone championship trophy in a wild Game 7 at Oracle Arena.

The 2002-03 San Antonio Spurs were another machine with a young Tim Duncan, a retirement-bound David Robinson, and a staple in the sidelines in coach Gregg Popovich.

The Nets managed to win two games in that series with Jefferson now solidified as a starter, but the Spurs managed to walk away with two double-digit wins in Games 5 and 6 to take it home.