ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recently said that Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker is the next Kobe Bryant. The Los Angeles Lakers legend was one of Booker’s idols and mentors before he tragically died in 2020. The Suns star tried to pattern his game after Bryant.
While Booker presumably appreciates people comparing him to one of the best players in NBA history, he doesn’t believe he’s earned that right.
Devin Booker: “I should never be compared to Kobe Bryant”
During an interview with former NBA forward and current ESPN analyst Richard Jefferson, Booker said he should never be compared to Bryant.
“I haven’t really thought about it much,” Booker said. “I know it’s something that everybody has going on right now. I didn’t make that comparison myself. I just leave it at what he’s done for me as a mentor and the advice he’s left me with. I try to take bits and pieces of his mentality and his approach, but I should never be compared to Kobe Bryant.”
Booker has drawn comparisons to Bryant due to his mastery of the mid-range and assassin-like mentality. He averaged 25.6 points during the 2020-21 regular season and passed Hall of Famer Rick Barry for the most points scored in a player’s first NBA postseason.
While Booker certainly has a similar playing style to Bryant, he has a ways to go before pundits such as Smith can compare him to the Lakers icon.
Kobe Bryant won five titles and is the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history
It will undoubtedly be a shock to many if Booker wins five championships and becomes a top-five scorer of all time like Bryant. Instead of directly comparing him to Bryant, Smith probably should have said that Booker has a similar mentality and playing style as the Black Mamba.
During his younger days when he wore No. 8, Bryant was one of the most athletic players in NBA history. He routinely dunked on centers and finished in heavy traffic. Booker doesn’t have the vertical or dunk package Bryant had. He does, however, possess a deadly jumper and scorer’s mentality, two traits Bryant had. The Suns guard scored 70 points against the Boston Celtics during the 2016-17 season.
Bryant, of course, scored a whopping 81 points in 2006 versus the Toronto Raptors. Along with winning five championships with the Lakers, the 18-time All-Star won two Finals MVPs, two scoring titles, and one regular-season MVP.
Booker may do things on the basketball court that remind us of Bryant, but it’s unfair to the Kentucky product to compare him to one of the greatest players ever, especially when he’s playing in his first NBA Finals. To honor Bryant, though, Booker may have to once again put on his Superman cape to save the Suns.
Devin Booker is one loss away from losing 2021 Finals to Bucks
Booker and the Suns had a 2-0 lead in the 2021 Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, they have dropped three straight and are one loss away from losing the series.
Bryant averaged 25.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists in 37 games in the NBA Finals in his career. Booker is putting up 30.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in his first Finals, which are incredible numbers. He scored 42 points in Game 4 and 40 in Game 5, but the Suns lost both games by a combined 10 points.
It will be captivating to see how Game 6 plays out in Milwaukee. If Booker scores 40 points again, the Bryant comparisons may grow even louder, but the 24-year-old is trying to avoid all the noise and lead his team to the promised land, something Bryant did five times.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.