Los Angeles Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell was selected with the No. 2 pick in this past June’s NBA Draft, and the Lakers hope Russell becomes a player that can help them comfortably navigate the post-Kobe Bryant era seas.
Bryant has served as the Lakers’ lynchpin for over a decade now, and his tenure in Los Angeles has been a wildly successful one.
In the early 2000’s, Bryant, along with superstar center Shaquille O’Neal netted the Lakers three straight championships, and then Bryant went on to repeat again, capturing two straight titles in 2009 and 2010 with Pau Gasol by his side.
During his time in the Association, Bryant has provided not only Laker fans, but the entire basketball world with breathtaking scoring binges, jaw-dropping game-winners and an admirable competitive nature.
Apparently these things resonated with the 19-year-old Russell, as he referred to Bryant as “his Michael Jordan” during an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio’s NBA Today. ( H/T to Chris Walder of The Score for transcribing Russell’s appearance on the show.)
“He was my Michael Jordan,” Russell said when asked how he viewed “The Black Mamba” as a youngster during an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio’s NBA Today.
“I didn’t grow up watching Jordan. I didn’t grow up watching Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, Larry Bird – I didn’t get to watch those dudes. When I was growing up, it was Kobe, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady – those dudes. So to get the opportunity to play with him for his last years is the highlight of my life.”
Russell, born in 1996, didn’t have the opportunity to watch Jordan in his prime, so it’s understandable that he took a liking to Bryant, who has an almost identical play-style to MJ’s. For many older fans and current NBA players, Michael Jordan served as their gateway into the basketball world. Their admiration for Jordan’s basketball prowess urged them to pick up a basketball and begin to emulate the things they saw on TV. Bryant was the one to serve that role for Russell.
Russell revealed in the interview that he and Bryant have only conversed briefly via the telephone, but when he and Kobe do meet formally, it’ll be a dream come true for the former Ohio State Buckeye.
I’m sure Laker fans and management have a dream as well, and that’s Russell duplicating even a smidgen of the success Bryant brought to Los Angeles. As Kobe’s career comes to a close, he’ll try to pass down some of that championship swagger to Russell, looking to prepare him for what he hopes is a long and prosperous career.