D’Angelo Russell‘s rookie season was none other than Kobe Bryant’s last as a basketball player, and the current Lakers guard can’t help but reminisce on those days fondly. It was 2016 and the Black Mamba had taken on himself to mentor the first-year player, as most LA fans hoped the youngster would someday be as good as the legend himself.
Everytime Russell is asked about that campaign, he talks about how he savored every moment and has a special memory of Kobe’s final match as an NBA athlete. According to the 27-year-old, he only remembers half of that 48-minute match.
All he recalls vividly is eveyone wanted to pass the ball to Bryant so he could shoot.
“We were like chickens with our heads cut off trying to get him the ball. Laker fans were huge on Kobe shooting every shot,” Russell recounted years ago. “So if anybody got the ball and wasn’t looking for Kobe, it wasn’t a good sight. But it was so fun. I try to go back and reminisce about the game, but I can’t remember anything.
“I just remember him scoring 60, but I don’t remember anything else – the day – it was just a blur to me. But we looked up, and he had 60 points, and we won.”
Believe it or not, Russell was just 12 year old when Kobe conquered the MVP award in the 2008 season, and was always well aware of Bryant’s legacy.
Even though he’s been outspoken about how fortunate he was to share the court with the Black Mamba during a whole season, he wished he could’ve spent more time learning from him in the NBA.
“When you’re young and you’re watching these guys, you think they’re going to be around forever,” he reflected. “And then when they’re on the way out you don’t know how to take it.”
Russell recalls his “welcome to the NBA moment” during a clash between Kobe and Damian Lillard
D’Angelo won’t ever forget what he calls his “welcome to the NBA moment”, as he saw Kobe confront a young Damian Lillard and “beat him up”.
“Kobe goes out and guards him [Dame],” he continued. “This was my welcome to the NBA moment, just Dame having, I don’t even know what. But then seeing Kobe guard him and beat him up. They weren’t letting Kobe foul out that game, and he just beat him up. Kobe shut it down. I watched the refs kinda let Kobe beat the shit out of him to do it.”
Ever since, D’Angelo tried his best to imitate his idol on the basketball court, and even received praise because of it in some occasions:
— Zesty NBA LA Lakers (@zesty_lakers) March 2, 2016
After two years in Los Angeles, D’Angelo was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, played one campaign for the Warriors, and finally ended up in Minnesota for three. This 2023, he returned to the purple and gold squad and he can’t help but be reminded by Kobe everytime he steps on the court with the Lakers jersey.
“When I reflect on my time in the past, it’s all Kobe,” the 27-year-old said about returning. “Appreciating Kobe when I was here wasn’t really something I did because I was young and figuring it out. But as soon as I left, I appreciated him more.”
Source: Basketball Insider