It was an afternoon game in Toronto, in February 2012, and the Raptors, struggling at 9-19 that season, were giving the home fans a treat. They had fought back from an early 18-point deficit against the Lakers and with 16.9 seconds remaining in the game, they took a lead on a Jose Calderon jumper. DeMar DeRozan, then in his third season with the Raptors, remembered what Kobe Bryant said as he passed by the Toronto bench following Calderon’s shot.
“This motherf***er walked past our bench while we was in the huddle and said ‘You left me too much time,’” DeRozan recalled on the All the Smoke podcast. “Came out, hit the f***ing game-winner.”
Indeed, in typical Bryant fashion, he ran a misdirection out beyond the right elbow, leaving defender James Johnson a step behind as Bryant cut back toward the baseline and took an inbound pass. Bryant knocked down the go-ahead shot, with 4.8 seconds to go and soon after sealed the game with a free throw.
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A fitting highlight among many such career plays for Bryant, an all-time Laker great who was tragically killed in a helicopter accident in January.
DeRozan on Kobe Bryant: ‘Kob Was My Imagination’
DeRozan, a product of USC, grew up in Southern California and when he was on the All the Smoke podcast last month, explained how flattering it was that he had been connected to the Lakers in trade rumors. He also explained just how much Bryant meant to him as a player growing up and in the early part of his career.
Here’s how DeRozan put it:
For me, Kob was my imagination. That was a player, obviously as I got older and was able to look at Michael Jordan, he became one of my favorite players, but growing up, when I started to understand and comprehend basketball at a young age, it was Kob, being a young Lakers fan. We didn’t have cable, all we had was channel KCAL 9, when the Lakers came on Channel 9, that was the only f***** channel we had. SO I watched every Lakers game growing up. And Kob was the one I gravitated to.
I remember begging my dad to go get a newspaper just so I could see what he said after the game, comments after the game, little s*** like that gave me an emotional connection to one of my favorite players that made me want to push harder when it came to wanting to play sports. … The culture around L.A., me being 31 now, has always been Bean to me. It’s always been Kobe.
DeRozan Would Like to Play in L.A.
DeRozan is coming off a season in which he averaged 22.1 points per game for the Spurs, his seventh straight year with 20-plus points to his credit. He is entering the final year of his contract with San Antonio and can be a free agent next summer.
He also recalled another individual encounter with Bryant, in his second NBA season, back in 2010-11. Bryant, it turns out, was a very physical defender and knew he could get away with it.
“’I’m gonna foul you every time down,’” DeRozan said Bryant told him, “‘and I bet they don’t call the f****** foul.’ You know what I mean? … He will beat you the f*** up and not, like—you feel me?”
DeRozan grew up in Compton and went to Compton High School. He’s long been rumored to want to return to Los Angeles, though it is doubtful there will be free-agent room for him with either the Clippers or Lakers next summer.