Kobe Bryant entered the night having played 1,241 career games.
Andre Roberson entered having played 71 career minutes.
But at tip time, with the Thunder rookie tasked with guarding the 18-year NBA legend, that became the unlikely matchup to watch.
And less than 20 seconds into Oklahoma City's easy 122-97 win over the Lakers, Roberson had already made a statement.
L.A. won the tip and Bryant, forced into an emergency point guard role for the Lakers, controlled the ball up top. Roberson, with his rare length and defensive instincts, pressured Kobe, knocked the ball free and forced a tie-up.
Moments later, Roberson beat a Bryant on the jump ball, completing a steal that would set the tone for the rest of the night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Even though I'm a rookie, I never back down from anybody,” Roberson said. “He definitely was a challenge for me tonight, and I took that upon myself.”
Bryant certainly wasn't himself on Friday, looking hobbled and uncomfortable throughout a four-point, seven-turnover performance. But Roberson impressed nonetheless.
In his third straight start in place of an injured Thabo Sefolosha, Roberson did what was expected. In 22 minutes, he had two points, four rebounds, two steals and a block.
But it was his relentless defense on Bryant and the other Laker perimeter options that outweighed any numbers.
“He's done a great job of just playing his role,” Russell Westbrook said. “Rebounding the basketball, cutting, defending. Doing what he did in college, he's transferring it over now.”