Devin Booker has been called a lot of names. Kobe 2.0, the next Kobe Bryant, DBook. Most of them are associated with his good offensive game. But after two tough playoff losses, things have changed. He's still called many names, but they are now criticizing his performance. Choker. Fake superstar. Devin "No Show" Booker. Can he still regain his reputation as one of the league's superstars, or has he been exposed as who he really is: a regular-season performer.
Two straight playoff meltdowns
The Phoenix Suns held a 2-0 lead against the Milwaukee Bucks in last year's NBA Finals. Since then, they have lost four straight. It was Booker's first trip to the finals, and promises of bouncing back were made. Fans listened. Critics took note and held him accountable. He almost came through with his promise. However, the Dallas Mavericks had other things in mind.
This season, the Suns were the best team in the regular season. The players performed as a unit, determined not to let history repeat itself this year. Booker, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Ayton all played like they were on a mission. Fans felt and expected they were a lock for the NBA finals once again to exact their revenge against the Milwaukee Bucks or whoever comes out in the East. It would be a fairytale ending for the Suns, but as fate would have it, the ghost of the past haunted them again.
Phoenix held a 3-2 lead against the Mavs. The series ended 4-3 in favor of Dallas with Luka Doncic, who cut down Booker and the Suns to their size with surgical precision. It was supposed to be a moment for Booker to take. The series was for the Suns to lose. In the end, Devin was left with nothing but another tough playoff loss. Does he have the mental fortitude to bounce back next year?
Setback for a greater comeback
Booker is only 25, so time is on his side. He's no stranger to overcoming challenges also. Booker has a sister who has chromosome 22 deletion syndrome, and he uses her as an inspiration to continue chasing his dreams. Bouncing back in basketball means little compared to what he's pursuing in real life. There's no doubt Booker could still redeem himself and his reputation as one of the game's best hunters. So he just needs to work harder for it.
Booker towed the Suns to have the best record in the NBA in the regular season. That showed his resilience and mental toughness. Another playoff meltdown could alter his determination, but no one could help him but himself. Being called Kobe's heir means having that responsibility and burden of living up to it. If Bryant didn't let the downfalls affect him, why should Booker? The time to work for the next season starts now. Once Bookers gets over the hump, all the struggles and hardships will be worth it.