For as long as Kyrie Irving has been in the NBA, he’s made it known that one of his idols is former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Whether it was Irving challenging the Black Mamba to a game of 1-on-1 during Team USA practice or praising Bryant countless times in various interviews, Irving has always looked at no. 24 as a mentor of sorts. For Bryant, who was rarely friendly with anyone other than his own teammates during his time in the NBA, was willing to reach out to and chat with Irving on a consistent basis. In fact, Bryant was the very first person Irving spoke to after winning the 2016 NBA championship.
As Irving has developed, his game has taken on more and more characteristics of Kobe’s. Both are devastating players out of isolation, and both seem to play their best with their backs against the wall. That was especially true of Irving during Friday night’s Game 4 0f the NBA Finals. With the Cavs down 3-0 and facing the prospect of the Golden State Warriors celebrating on their home floor, Irving went bananas, dropping 40 points on an array of 3’s, jumpers and twisting lay-ups.
Bryant was watching. When a fan tweeted him “Kyrie got that @kobebryant mamba mentality,” Bryant responded with the “100” emoji, an endorsement if there ever was one.
It has to be somewhat surreal for Irving. Not only did he have one of his best career games at the most crucial time, but his idol made it known he accepts the growing comparisons between the two. Not a bad night for the Cavs point guard.
Photo credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
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