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Even the young guns felt Kobe’s influence

Even the young guns felt Kobe’s influence

CHICAGO — When Kobe Bean Bryant made his NBA debut, 16 of the 20 rookies and sophomores who will take part in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge at NBA All-Star weekend had not yet been born.

None of the 20 ever played against the Lakers legend. Only a few met him.

But even for the league’s younger generation, for players like Zion Williamson and Trae Young, and even for those who grew up outside the United States, Bryant’s legacy is tangible. His impact was, and still is, felt.

“It’s up there with Jordan,” Williamson said Friday. “Especially for this generation. Because he was this generation’s Michael Jordan.”

“Growing up, I didn’t get to watch MJ that much,” Hornets forward Miles Bridges explained. “So Kobe was kind of my Mike.”

Added Ja Morant: “That’s who I grew up watching.”

Williamson, Bridges and Morant were three of more than a dozen Rising Stars who shared memories of Bryant at NBA All-Star weekend on Friday. Their words paint a portrait of what Bryant meant to basketball’s Gen Z.

Kobe memories

“When I was 8,” Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker begins. His mind flashes back to 2006-07, to scoring champion Kobe, to the All-Star Game MVP. Alexander-Walker was growing up in Ontario, more than 2,000 miles from Los Angeles. Nonetheless, “My first basketball number was 8,” he says. And then the memories start flowing.

“I had his first Nike shoe. And I remember I used to watch NBA TV, and they’d be showing his highlights. And I used to practice running with my thumbs up, like the way he did.”

Kobe Bryant’s signature jog with his thumbs up at the 2008 NBA All-Star Game. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“Just everything about basketball that he brought to the table,” Alexander-Walker continued. “Before the season even started, I knew the only shoe I would wear was a Kobe Bryant shoe. Just because of the impact he had on me and the approach he’s brought to the game, being super confident in yourself. People are gonna love you, people are gonna hate you. But as long as you can look in the mirror every day and feel confident, and feel appreciated by yourself, then that’s the biggest thing.”

Others have vivid memories of watching Kobe as a fan. Cavs guard Collin Sexton remembers staying up until 1 a.m. on a school night watching his “Mamba out” 60-point game against the Jazz in 2016. Wolves forward Josh Okogie remembers being at a friend’s house. A Lakers game, he says, “was just on, randomly. I wasn’t even trying to watch the game. And he hit a left-handed 3, or fadeaway, in the corner area. I just thought that was amazing. That was probably the No. 1 Kobe moment.”

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Source : Yahoo Sports Link