It’s being debated across multiple sports media outlets. The rise of a young Devin Booker has thrust him into headlines next to a very beloved Hall of Fame basketball player: Kobe Bryant. The question is, is it valid?
Can Booker possibly be to Bryant what Bryant was to Michael Jordan? According to Stephen A. Smith, it’s definite, but it may be a little too early for that statement to be 100 percent true.
First, let’s talk about why this is such a difficult topic. We are not just saying “Devin Booker is similar to Kobe Bryant. That is a very different and valid statement. We are saying “Devin Booker is the next Kobe Bryant.”
At first glance, sure, Booker with the ball in his hands looks very similar to Bryant. Offensively, the way they move, their body types, positions and more. The influence Bryant had on Booker is evident and it is well known the relationship the two of them had. And while the offensive end is where Bryant was most known for, there was much more to him than just scoring.
Bryant was great defensively, an area that many offensive-minded players decide to conserve energy. Bryant was not like that. Bryant was not afraid of a defensive assignment and never used the excuse of “I am the number one option on offense and need to conserve my energy for that side of the floor.”
Now, I am not saying Booker necessarily does this, but in important moments of the playoffs, Booker is usually guarding the nonthreat on the offensive end of the other team. For example, he was guarding Patrick Beverly at the end of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Clippers.
This is also because there are other capable defenders in Phoenix like Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges. But it also means Booker should work more on the defensive end to be closer to the level of those players. Everyone has a role, but to be included in elite company with Bryant, you have to do it all.
Secondly, one of the biggest parts of Bryant’s game was his famed Mamba Mentality. Everyone knows Bryant approached the game at an almost insane level. His work ethic is argued to be the greatest in the history of the sport, and that part of the game is the very first thing I look at when someone tells me “this guy is like Kobe.”
Does Booker approach the game like Kobe? Is he in the gym every night rather than playing a video game? Is he spending more time improving on the faults in his game than doing anything else in his life? If not, he doesn’t belong anywhere near the name of Kobe Bryant.
Now, again, I am not saying Booker does not do this. However, his name is tossed around the media for a lot of his extracurricular activities, like live-streaming video games and dating a Kardashian. Bryant’s focus was on few things other than winning a championship and being the best version of himself on the court, and I don’t know if I can say the same about Booker.
Taking time off and taking care of yourself is important, but the more time you spend off the court the less I am willing to compare you to Kobe on the court.
Let’s also compare where Bryant was career was at 24 which is how old Booker is. At 24, Bryant already had three championships to his name and was lighting up the opposition for 25 plus points a game in the postseason.
Booker does not have Shaquille O’Neal as a big man who just so happens to be the most dominant force to ever play in the NBA. He does have Deandre Ayton who has been playing very well for the Suns. But Ayton is nowhere near what Shaq was. Booker is in his first playoffs ever and making noise since he’s arrived averaging over 28 points a game.
His play in the bubble was phenomenal, then he followed it up with an amazing regular season for the Suns, and is now in the conference finals battling against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Booker has arrived and chances are we will see him in the playoffs for many years to come, but I need a few more of those years before firmly saying this man is the next Kobe Bryant.
Bryant is a name held dear not just to Laker fans, but basketball fans around the world. Because of this and the body of work provided to the fans by Bryant, signing off on Booker requires much consideration. Find our conversation about Devin Booker on the Blitz & Audible podcast on news4usonline.com.
Featured Image Caption: June 24, 2021-Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) goes up for a shot attempt against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline