After knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, the Phoenix Suns followed it up by sweeping the NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. The Suns then impressively defeated the L.A. Clippers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, putting them only three wins away from making an improbable NBA Finals appearance.
General manager James Jones and head coach Monty Williams deserve plenty of credit for how they built and managed the roster, but the real driving force has been Devin Booker, who has taken his game to a whole new level. Despite this being his first postseason, Booker is quickly showing the world he is a superstar with how he has looked scoring the basketball and even earned LeBron James’ respect as a player.
When watching Booker it does not take too long to realize how much of his game is modeled after Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant and on ESPN’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith went so far as to say that the Suns guard is the next Black Mamba:
"Devin Booker is the next Kobe Bryant. It is official."
— First Take (@FirstTake) June 21, 2021
It is sacrilegious to compare any player to Bryant, but from an offensive standpoint, it is hard to argue with Smith’s assessment. Like Bryant, Booker is a prolific mid-range scorer but has also rounded his game with his playmaking ability.
Booker has cited Bryant as his muse and it has been on full display during these playoffs. Bryant and Booker had a strong relationship and the former would be proud to see how the Phoenix star has risen to the occasion.
Booker was thinking of Bryant in Game 6
Staples Center is used to seeing electrifying performances and Booker put on a show in Game 6 of the first round as he scored 22 points in the first quarter en route to 47 for the game. The Lakers’ defense had no answer for him as he got to his spots and hit shot after shot no matter how contested they are.
Booker’s performance was eerily reminiscent of Bryant whenever he had an opportunity to close out a series and the Suns shooing guard revealed he was thinking of the Lakers icon during the game. “Honestly I was thinking about Kob[e] and the conversations that we had, kinda about what we just went through,” Booker said.
“The postseason, and being legendary, and taking the steps to get there. So seeing that 8 and that 24 up there with the way that the lighting at Staples has right here, it feels like its shining down on you. And I know he was here tonight. I know he was here tonight, I know he was in the building, I know he was proud.”
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