But now, a lot of NBA stars model their game after Bryant. Before he died, he mentored several young NBA stars, which is why they have the “Mamba Mentality.”
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
A lot of NBA analysts think the player who most reminds them of Bryant is Devin Booker. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said he is the next Kobe.
“It is official, in his first playoff appearance and the brother is the number one option and averaging over 28,” Smith said about the Phoenix Suns star on a recent episode of First Take.
Co-host Max Kellerman and Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johson agreed with Smith’s assessment of Booker. The 24-year old idolized Bryant and even developed a friendship with him.
When asked by ESPN’s Malika Andrews what Bryant would tell him right now being up 2-1 in the finals, Booker said, “Finish the job. That’s what he’d tell me.”
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Besides Booker, Young also emerged as a star during the playoffs. His play on the court and attitude off the court remind many of the way Bryant used to play, especially given how Young performed versus the New York Knicks.
Young showed no fear going up against the Knicks and the fans at Madison Square Garden. Like Booker, Young idolized Bryant, and Bryant’s daughter Gigi became a huge fan of his, according to CBS Sports.
Bryant would have been proud of Young’s play in the playoffs because he looked and acted like a young Kobe when he first starred in the NBA playoffs 20-plus years ago.
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
“My dad was a big fan of MJ, a big fan of Kobe, and we used to watch all the tapes and just watch the mental, you know the mental side of it.
“When Kobe’s on the court and he has that look, you almost have a feeling. You just know they’re going to win the game. You know they’re going to come back. You know he’s going to do something crazy.”
Another player you can throw into the mix is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ young star, Collin Sexton. Sexton has all the qualities that Bryant had, including the confidence to take any shot from anywhere on the court, and he isn’t afraid to lead.
That may be why the Lakers and Knicks want to trade for the young star. He could make a huge difference with the right team.
Bryant’s influence and mentorship of younger players might be the biggest contribution he had to the game of basketball.