Every Kobe Bryant fan knows, but for some reason, not all would admit that he had tried to emulate Michael Jordan’s game. But as we all know, mimicking MJ’s moves is not a walk in the park. In fact, Bryant himself spent years before he could finally polish it and began looking like Jordan on the court. And by saying years, we meant way back to Kobe’s first summer league with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kobe badly wanted to be like Mike
In the summer of 1996, an array of NBA personalities witnessed a then-17-year-old phenom try to fit in with the big boys. Ultimately, the comments implied that the young Kobe was overdoing pretty much everything to make himself look like he wasn’t a youngster in a grown man’s world.
David Booth, a former Laker, who was playing for the Lakers in that summer league but was waived before the season started, said Bryant wouldn’t settle for an easy bucket. Instead, he would do some acrobatic shots which evidently resembled that of Jordan.
As expected, Booth said Kobe had a hard time pulling it off and that he would even risk his future by repeatedly falling to the ground.
“He would jump up and twist, twist, twist, and try to reverse when he could’ve just laid it up on that side. Sometimes, he would fall to the ground,” Booth said of young Kobe via The Ringer. “I think he was trying to pattern himself after Michael Jordan a little bit. As his career went on, he was able to make those moves. But I could tell that he was just starting to try those out.”
Bryant wasn’t the only one trying to be like MJ at the time. However, almost every person who saw his unapologetic way of stealing Jordan’s moves just couldn’t deny it. Aside from Booth, then-Detroit Pistons assistant coach Alvin Gentry said the same thing about Bryant that summer.
“I think the kid is a tremendous athlete,” Gentry said of Kobe. “I don’t want to compare anybody to Jordan. But he’s Jordan-like in the way he makes spectacular plays, the way he can get his shot, the way he can handle the ball, and he has a great court temperament.”
Different animal, same beast
Years after that summer league, Bryant finally carved his own path in the sport. But along with it were the undeniable similarities with Jordan. Over time, it has become an unspoken truth and Jordan even famously said, “I don’t think I would lose — other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves.”
While that has been the case, the man himself believed that he and MJ were still different.
“It’s fun, we’re really different,” Bryant said of Jordan. “He’s crazy, he’ll compete at anything. He’ll compete with any and everything, I won’t. I’ll only compete with things I’m good at.”
Looking back, we can conclude that no player has ever come close to replicating Jordan more than Bryant. But at the end of the day, they made their own respective legacy.