Saturday, December 2 2023
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Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was many things in his six-year NBA career. A strong defender. An underrated playmaker. A valuable rebounder. A Kobe Bryant clone, though, never would have felt like an accurate description… until now.

Hollis-Jefferson, no longer playing in the NBA, is now suiting up for Jordan in the FIBA World Cup. On a roster lacking in top-end talent, Hollis-Jefferson has had to adopt a greater scoring load. He’s handled the role well, scoring a tournament-high 39 points on Monday as Jordan lost to New Zealand to go along with 24 points against Greece in Jordan’s opener. But perhaps more interestingly, he’s adopted a very specific aesthetic in his new role.

Hollis-Jefferson, who had hair during his NBA career, has shaved his head. He’s wearing an armband now. His uniform number? By now you’ve probably guessed it’s No. 24. Hollis-Jefferson is doing his very best Bryant impression in the World Cup, and it isn’t just in the looks. His playing style has been downright Kobe-esque. Just look at this fadeaway. If he weren’t a lefty, it would be a dead ringer for Bryant’s.

Everything from his handle to the form of his jumper look like a Bryant impression in the World Cup.

It’d be one thing if Hollis-Jefferson just looked like Bryant. But no, a proper Bryant impression requires more than just points and visual similarity. It demands big shots, and Hollis-Jefferson delivered on that front. With Jordan trailing by four in the final seconds against New Zealand, Hollis-Jefferson tied the game on a four-point play.

The fans were so enthralled by his performance that they serenaded Hollis-Jefferson with “Kobe” chants. Jordan ultimately lost the game in overtime, and after losing to Greece in its opener, has been eliminated from the tournament, but Hollis-Jefferson was still honored by his reception in the Philippines. “It’s an honor,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “There was only one Kobe, but to feel that love and that energy coming down the stretch, hitting those big shots, God was with me and Kobe was with me, for sure.”

Hollis-Jefferson is under contract to play for TNT Tropang Giga in the Philippines next season. However, he confirmed that his contract does include an NBA opt-out clause, and as their season ends in February, he will be available in the middle of the NBA season regardless. Whether or not this sort of play can translate to tougher NBA competition remains to be seen, but at the very least, Hollis-Jefferson is doing everything he can to prove he at least deserves one more shot on the biggest stage. Hollis-Jefferson and Jordan face Team USA in their final World Cup game on Wednesday.



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