Espo: Is Devin Booker Kobe Bryant 2.0?

Arizona Sports News online

13th pick overall.

Dad played basketball in Italy.

Youngest player in the league when drafted.

Overlooked by NBA teams during the draft.

Super confident to the point that some opponents call it cocky.

Which NBA player am I talking about? Kobe Bryant… and Devin Booker.

If you were to simply compare the first few lines of their media guide bios you’d realize that Bryant and Booker share some elementary things in common. A few weeks ago I probably would have said that was where the similarities ended. That is, until Booker added something else to the list on Friday night in Boston.

One of only 6 players to score 70 or more in an NBA game.

It was in that moment that it hit me. Phoenix fans may be rooting for Kobe 2.0.

Let that sink in for a second.

We could be rooting for the second coming of a guy that tortured us for decades. Sure, at first thought it’s off putting. We spent so long despising Kobe that even the fleeting thought of rooting for any version of him is tough to stomach. What helps easy that pain in the pit of your gut is when you realize, as Suns fans, this time, if it comes to fruition, we’ll get to benefit from all the things that pissed us off about Bryant and the Lakers.

Sure, one historic performance aided by intentional fouls and timeouts doesn’t put Booker on a superstar trajectory. What does is the fact that he’s doing things most 20 years, including Kobe, haven’t done before him.

The kid out of Kentucky was the third youngest player ever to have 30+ points in a game, something he did six times his rookie year and has done nine times this season alone. He was the fourth youngest player to score 1,000 points in his NBA career and was only the second player in league history, along with LeBron James, to score back-to-back 30 point games as a teenager.

What is even more impressive is the fact that, at 20, he’s already become a leader of the Suns and someone his teammates are rallying around. He’s the face of the franchise in only his second year and has already found a way to get under the skin of opponents.

The only element that the second-year guard hasn’t mastered that Kobe had is the “killer instinct”. That ability to tap into a dark place and rip the heart out of your opponent. A skill that could very well develop over time. If it does, look out NBA, there will be a new Mamba in town ready to strike.

Last year when Kobe visited Phoenix for the last time in his illustrious career he took a moment after the game to meet with Booker. He signed a pair of shoes for the young rookie and left the inscription “Be Legendary” along with his signature.

At the time it seemed like a nice gesture from a setting star to a kid who had idolized him growing up. If Suns fans are lucky, what it just may have been was a passing of the baton from Kobe to Kobe 2.0.