Booker is averaging 29 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists this postseason and has the Phoenix Suns three wins from the NBA Finals. And Booker has been stepping up as the games get more important. Booker dropped 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Clippers, leading Phoenix to a 120-114 win.
On ESPN’s First Take this week, Stephen A. Smith dubbed Booker the next Kobe Bryant — a massive compliment for the Suns All-Star who was mentored by the Lakers great before his untimely passing.
“Devin Booker is the next Kobe Bryant. I’m saying it on national television, Devin Booker is the next Kobe Bryant,” Smith said. “It is official, in his first playoff appearance and the brother is the number one option and averaging over 28 (points). Dropped 40 (points) and a triple-double in the first game on the Conference Finals.”
Lakers legend Magic Johnson was on set and agreed with Smith’s assessment, as did his co-host, Max Kellerman.
“Devin Booker is a mini-Mamba,” Kellerman said. “He’s the closest thing, offensively, to Kobe’s game in the sense that he can kill you from anywhere.”
Smith doubled down on his statement during an appearance on Tuesday on Keshawn, JWill & Zubin.
“He’s got an assassin’s mentality. He’s a killer,” Smith said. “When you look at him and what he brings to the table, this brother is something special. His game is incredibly similar to what you used to see from Kobe Bryant, God rest his soul.”
Booker Showing of His ‘Mamba Mentality
The big numbers are nice, but Booker is willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if it doesn’t show up in the box score. He said it’s something both Bryant and his veteran teammate Chris Paul taught him.
Booker has picked up the slack with Paul out after entering the NBA’s Health and Safety protocols. He missed Game 1 and will not be active for Game 2, either.
“Just the mentality, people say the Mamba mentality, just the approach of doing whatever it takes at all costs to get a win,” Booker told reporters after the game. “It might not be 40 points next game. It might be more assists or making more plays for my teammates, the hockey assists.
“So every time down, just valuing every possession, and that’s something that Chris [Paul] doesn’t talk about much, but he’s second to none in that category. So it’s picking up bits and pieces and using them to my advantage.”
Booker Reminded of Kobe While Taking Down Lakers
Booker noted that he was thinking about Bryant while battling the Lakers at Staples Center in their first-round series, which the Suns won 4-2.
“Honestly, I was thinking about Kob and the conversations that we had kinda about what we just went through,” Booker told reporters, “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 that Staples has right here feels like it’s shining down on you. I know he was here tonight, I know he was here tonight. I know he’s in the building. I know he was proud.”
The two star scorers only faced off once in 2016, back when Booker was a rookie. The Suns bested the struggling Lakers 119-107, with Bryant scoring 17 points and Booker netting 28.