Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker has made it no secret that he considers the late, great Kobe Bryant to be one of his biggest idols in basketball. Many believe that Booker’s game has been patterned after the Los Angeles Lakers legend.
That’s not the only thing these two players have in common, however. As a matter of fact, we were able to dig up six interesting facts that eerily connect the careers and lives of Booker and Bryant.
June 26, 1996 was a momentous date in NBA history. This was the day Kobe officially entered the league, being selected 13th overall in what turned out to be one of the greatest classes of all time. A few months later (Oct. 30), Devin Armani Booker was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is quite a coincidence that Bryant was drafted in the exact same year that Booker was born.
Lucky Number 13
As mentioned earlier, Bryant was taken 13th overall in ’96. By the way, it was the Charlotte Hornets who plucked Kobe off the draft board, but quickly dealt him to Los Angeles in exchange for Vlade Divac.
Anyway, care to take a wild guess as to what number Booker got drafted at when it was his time to enter the league? Yup, you got that right … 13th overall in 2015. The Suns drafted him out of Kentucky, and he has blossomed into a star.
Basketball runs in the family for both Bryant and Booker. As a matter of fact, both of their fathers played professionally in the NBA.
Joe Bryant started his NBA journey as the 13th overall pick (hey, look at that) in the 1975 draft. He spent the first four years of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers before being dealt to the San Diego Clippers in 1979. In 1982, the 6-foot-9 forward was on the move again. He had a one-year stint with the Houston Rockets, which marked the end of his eight-year NBA career. Bryant finished with career averages of 8.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists.
On the other hand, 6-foot-1 point guard Melvin Booker, father of Devin, had a less impactful career in the NBA. He played for three different teams in two years in the league, which also included Joe Bryant’s last team in the Rockets. All in all, though, Booker played in just 32 games in the NBA, averaging 5.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists.
Clearly, both Kobe and Devin have the edge here over their dads in terms of their NBA careers.
Kobe Bryant is widely regarded as one of the greatest shooting guards in the history of the NBA. For his part, Booker also hopes to follow in the footsteps of his idol. Like Kobe, Booker occupies the 2-guard position as well. Also like Kobe, Booker is 6-foot-6.
Throughout the history of the NBA, only three guards have managed to score over 70 points in a single ballgame. You probably guessed that Bryant and Booker were two of the guys on this esteemed list.
Bryant achieved this awe-inspiring feat on Jan. 22, 2006, when he torched the Toronto Raptors for a career-high 81 points on 28-of-46 shooting. For his part, Booker set his career-best mark some 11 years later on March 24, 2017. Booker dropped 70 points against the Boston Celtics in what was easily the best individual performance of Booker’s career thus far.
The only other guard who has scored over 70 points in a ballgame is the great David Thompson, who himself logged 73 points against the Detroit Pistons in 1978.
Not even the GOAT, Michael Jordan, eclipsed the 70-point mark in his decorated career, with MJ settling for 69 as his all-time career high.
Passing the Torch
Unfortunately for Booker, he was not able to share the floor with his idol for long. Kobe retired at the end of the 2015-16 campaign, which happened to be Booker’s rookie year.
On March 23, 2016, after a matchup between the Lakers and Suns, this pair had a memorable encounter in the locker room. Bryant handed Booker a pair of signed Kobe 11s, on which the Lakers legend inscribed an epic message: “Be legendary.”
Almost one year to the day, on March 24, 2017, Booker went on to make his mark in the history books by being the youngest player to ever hit the 70-point mark at just 20 years of age. Way to live up to Bryant’s legendary challenge.
To date, Devin Booker is one of only six players in the history of the NBA who has scored at least 70 points in a game. The other players on this list are Kobe himself, David Robinson, the aforementioned David Thompson, Elgin Baylor, and the great Wilt Chamberlain. That’s a pretty legendary list, right?