Thursday, December 7 2023
2023 FIBA World Cup - Jordan v Greece

2023 FIBA World Cup – Jordan v Greece

Watching part of Jordan’s World Cup opener against Greece, I squinted at the screen trying to make sense of what I saw. A shaved-headed player wearing No. 24, a wristband halfway up his off-arm forearm, a guy taking a lot of shots, leading his team in scoring, and with many of the on-court mannerisms of the late, great Kobe Bryant (such as his leaning forward follow through on shots). Who was this guy?

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

The former Nets lottery pick, playing at the World Cup as a naturalized citizen of Jordan, has reshaped his identity and game in the mold of Kobe Bryant. See for yourself.

Hollis-Jefferson and Jordan take on Team USA in the final Group C round tonight (the USA is 2-0 and is guaranteed to advance regardless of the outcome).

The new look was not an accident, Hollis-Jefferson told Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

“He’s a legend, and you can only dream of being compared to someone like him,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “But I’m nowhere near close to Kobe. I’ve tried to be a hard worker like he was, and I feel his energy. I also know a lot of people that knew him, so I’ve been hearing stories about him my whole life.”

Hollis-Jefferson is scoring like Kobe, he is second in the tournament at 31.5 points per game (trailing only Luka Dončić at 35.5). He’s shot 54.3% in the World Cup (although just 28.6% from 3).

It was those struggles from 3 that held Hollis-Jefferson back in the NBA. In his six NBA seasons — four with the Nets, who drafted him, plus one with the Raptors and one with the Trail Blazers — he was a very good defender, but Brooklyn wanted him to develop into a 3&D guy. The shot never came. Eventually, they asked him to play more and more four to get him closer to the basket, and he bulked up some to play that role. It never really worked out. He eventually was out of the league and playing in Turkey, France, and last season in the Philippines. He dropped weight in that time oversees and modeled himself on Kobe.

This season, he got FIBA approval to be a naturalized citizen of Jordan and represent them in the World Cup. That hasn’t led to wins — Jordan is 0-2 and cannot advance in the World Cup, regardless of the outcome against the United States — but it has raised a few eyebrows.

Just because it all looks so familiar.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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