NCAA

Ohio State Guard Duane Washington Jr. Had a Deep Connection With Kobe Bryant Thanks to His 5-Time NBA Champion Uncle

Among the best guards in college basketball is Duane Washington Jr. of the Ohio State Buckeyes, as he has helped OSU become one of the top programs in the country. Washington is not the first person in his family to make a name for himself on the basketball court, though, as his uncle helped him develop a nice connection with NBA and Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. Washington’s uncle is five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher.

Duane Washington Jr. is Derek Fisher’s nephew

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Duane Washington Jr. has basketball in his blood. His father, Duane Washington Sr., went to the Washington Bullets in the second round of the 1987 NBA draft. He ultimately only appeared in 19 total NBA games, though.

However, the elder Washington’s brother is the one who really became a basketball star. Derek Fisher was never one of the best guards in the league, but he was a valuable role player on several great teams.

Fisher, who went to the LA Lakers in the first round of the 1996 NBA draft, won three championships with Kobe Bryant on the Lakers from 1999-2000 through 2001-02. After averaging just 6.3 points in 23.1 minutes per game in 1999-2000, Fisher averaged over 11 points per game for the Lakers in each of the next two seasons. He even scored 13.4 points per game during the Lakers’ playoff run in 2000-01.

Fisher played on the Lakers for two more seasons after their 2001-02 title and went back to the Finals with them in 2003-04. He, however, then played for the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz before returning to the Lakers in 2007-08. Fisher then won two more championships and made three more NBA Finals appearances with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers from 2007-08 through 2009-10.

Those weren’t his last Finals trips, either, though, as Fisher ended up playing in the championship round again with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12. For his career, in addition to the five championships, Fisher averaged 8.3 points per game and three assists. He also shot 37.4% from 3-point range.

After his playing career, Derek Fisher coached the New York Knicks in 2014-15 and 2015-16, but only went 40-96. He has had success as the coach of the LA Sparks in the WNBA, though, and is now not only the coach but also the GM.

Duane Washington Jr. discussed his connection with Kobe Bryant

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Winning five championships on the Lakers with Kobe Bryant helped Derek Fisher grow pretty close to the NBA legend. This led to his nephew, Duane Washington Jr., spending time with him as well.

“The time that I was with him was not even about basketball,” Washington Jr. said to the Big Ten Network. “It was family time. It was playing Sorry or The Game of Life at my uncle’s house, just hanging out with the family, or going to a game and going to get something to eat after the game. I never got to talk basketball with him. One day, we’re going to be able to, but our time here together, we weren’t able to, and I think that just shows that he was more than just a basketball player, and he had such an impact on a lot of different people in this world.”

Bryant sadly died on Jan. 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others. Duane Washington Jr. may not have really been able to discuss basketball with Bryant, who he called “Uncle Kobe,” but Bryant’s basketball legacy still lives on through many players today. This includes Washington, too.

Duane Washington Jr. has become a basketball star for the Ohio State Buckeyes

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According to his Ohio State bio, Duane Washington Jr. earned first-team All-State honors in high school at Sierra Canyon. He averaged 15.5 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists that season. He then started playing college basketball for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2018-19 and has become a star.

Washington found success in his first two seasons with Ohio State, as he averaged seven points per game in 17.2 minutes in 2018-19 before averaging 11.5 points per game in 24.9 minutes in 2019-20. He, however, became one of the best guards in the country in 2020-21. Washington averaged 16.3 points per game on 41.4% shooting during the regular season and conference tournament that year. He also ultimately helped Ohio State earn a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Like Kobe Bryant, Washington came up big in the clutch, too. He scored 20 or more points in three of Ohio State’s four 2020-21 Big Ten Tournament games, and scored 32 in the championship game against Illinois.

Kobe Bryant may be gone, but many current players show that his legacy still lives on. Duane Washington Jr. is one of them.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and ESPN