Devin Booker needed six years to reach the NBA Finals stage that Kobe Bryant once dominated, but he’s made the most of his opportunity as the Phoenix Suns battle the Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns may trail in the series 3-2, but that’s certainly not Booker’s fault. Phoenix’s star shooting guard has scored 40 points in back-to-back games in the Finals, a feat that Bryant himself never achieved, and he’s done so using many of the same moves in isolation that made Bryant a superstar.
The comparison is a fairly obvious one. Aside from their stylistic similarities, the two shared a relationship later in Bryant’s career and life. Booker was drafted before Bryant’s final NBA season, and when Booker asked Bryant for advice, Bryant told him to “be legendary.” Booker now wears those words on his shoes during games, but that doesn’t mean he approves of the comparison. When Richard Jefferson asked Booker about his feelings on being compared to Bryant, he made it clear that he doesn’t feel as though he is up that level yet.
“I haven’t really thought about it much,” Booker said. “I know it’s something that everybody is gonna ask right now, and I didn’t make that comparison myself. I just leave it at what he’s done for me as a mentor and the advice that he’s left me with, so I try to take bits and pieces of his mentality and approach, but I should never be compared to Kobe Bryant.”
Bryant himself likely wouldn’t condone the comparison under the circumstances either. Success or failure to him was predicated on winning or losing, so no matter how well an individual player played, winning the series and the championship would still be a necessity for him.
Even if Booker does come up short, he and several of the other players Bryant once mentored have shined this postseason. Jayson Tatum scored 50 in a first-round game against the Brooklyn Nets. Trae Young came within two wins of the NBA Finals. And now, Booker is two wins away from the championship and just had one of the best back-to-back stretches in Finals history. Bryant may be gone, but his impact on the league is still being felt to this day.