Kobe Bryant has been the face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise for almost two decades. The veteran guard has been around so long that most of the players he plays with and against on a nightly basis grew up watching and idolizing the superstar.
One of those young players in the league that likely had a poster of Bryant on his wall as a kid is rookie Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks.
After the two teams recently played each other and the Knicks came out with a 99-95 win, Porzingis told Mike Francesa of WFAN the Lakers were his favorite team and Kobe was his favorite player growing up:
“My favorite player growing up was Kobe. The Lakers were my team and I still love him.”
Porzingis received a lot of recognition heading into the draft in June after working out for teams in Las Vegas only a few weeks earlier. Many teams were leery of the international product with no one willing to take a chance on him or at least not publicly admitting they would.
The Knicks seem to have gotten a steal in the form of the versatile seven-footer with the rookie getting off to a hot start to his NBA career. Porzingis is averaging 13.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in the 15 games he’s played this far for New York.
As for the Lakers, the team’s front office had an extremely tough decision to make once they were on the clock with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The franchise was able to avoid losing the pick to the Philadelphia 76ers by getting in the top five, but making the right choice after the Minnesota Timberwolves was no easy task for Mitch Kupchak and company.
A lot of prospects were linked to the Lakers with D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Porzingis at the top of the list. Ultimately, the Lakers surprised everyone by going with Russell.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Okafor, Mudiay, and Porzingis have all played well in the first full month of the 2015-16 NBA campaign while Russell has slowly progressed.
It’ll be a few years before Los Angeles knows what they have in Russell, but so far, the Lakers may be starting to think they may have made a mistake in not taking a chance on Porzingis.