In 2012, Anthony Davis was only 19 years old when he was chosen to be part of the Team USA Olympic team in London, having been the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft out of Kentucky just a month before the team began play. He was not originally supposed to be part of the team—he was picked as a replacement after star forward Blake Griffin had to back out because of a knee injury. But the experience connected him with one of the greatest players in Lakers history, Kobe Bryant.
Davis’ father, Anthony Davis Sr., told ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne that Bryant promised him to keep a good watch over Davis throughout that stint with USA Basketball.
Said the elder Davis: “When we first got there, Kobe came over to us and said, ‘Mr. Davis, I got your boy with me. I’m taking the young fella under my wing. He’s going everywhere I go this whole Olympics.’ And that’s what he did. Wherever Kobe went, Anthony went.”
Bryant did record one of Davis’ most memorable moments from his time in London—the time he met Armenian wrestler Gadzhimurad Nurmagomedov, a relative of MMA star Khabib Nurmagomedov. The two shared a common trait—the trademark unibrow.
Bryant shared the photo on his Facebook page with the caption, “Battle of the unibrow!!!”:
Anthony Davis Was LeBron James’ ‘Rook’ in 2012
That Olympic team wound up winning a gold medal, only getting one scare—a 99-94 win over Lithuania—before reaching the final game, a back-and-forth win over Spain. Davis played in seven of the U.S.’s eight games, scoring 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting.
Eight years ago during that tournament, Davis recalled a conversation he had with Bryant about what to expect when the two played each other. Davis was originally chosen by New Orleans and spent the first seven years of his career with that organization.
As Reuters noted, Davis told reporters, “Kobe said, ‘When you play me, don’t expect to get calls. Even if you touch me a little bit, they’re gonna call a foul. So don’t touch me.’”
Davis also said that while Bryant and Davis Sr. had a conversation about keeping an eye on the teenaged prodigy, just about everyone on that team claimed Davis as, “my rookie.” That included guard Deron Williams—and current Lakers teammate LeBron James.
As Davis put it: “The whole team always call me their ‘rook.’ Like LeBron says, ‘He’s my rook.’ And Deron says, ‘He’s my rook.’ Kobe: ‘He’s my rook.’ All of them take me under their wing so I learn a little bit from each and every one of them.”
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Anthony Davis-LeBron James Combo linked to Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal
It is fitting that Davis has had this long-standing connection with Bryant because Bryant has been brought up more than once in watching the Lakers demolish the Heat in the first two games of the NBA Finals, reminiscent of the way the Western Conference champ Lakers of the early 2000s routinely rolled through whatever East patsy was thrown in its way during the era of Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal dominance. From 2000-2002, the Lakers went 12-3 in the Finals against the Pacers, Sixers and Nets.
When both Davis (33 points) and James (32 points) hit the 30-point mark in Game 2 of the Finals, it marked the first time a Lakers duo had done that in a championship series since Bryant and O’Neal in 2002.
Speaking of the comparison to Bryant and O’Neal, Davis told reporters, “They both had a competitive spirit with themselves to will their teams to win. I think me and Bron are the same way.”