When Kobe Bryant Claimed That A 23-Year-Old Damian Lillard was ‘the Real Deal’

Published 09/24/2021, 1:04 PM EDT
Kobe Bryant directs his teammates during a game against the Timberwolves on Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, at Staples Center. (Photo by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


Late NBA legend Kobe Bryant was easily one of the greatest to play in the NBA. Bryant won five titles in his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, earning the respect of his colleagues along the way. To earn Bryant’s respect, however, especially a rookie, was a feat few can say they have achieved. Damian Lillard is one such player, a young Lillard impressed Bryant during their 2013 game–earning his respect.

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The two faced off during a 2013 game and Lillard’s performance that night left a lasting impression on the Mamba. Let’s take a look at the game, and what Bryant had to say after.

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Here’s how a young Damian Lillard impressed Kobe Bryant

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Back in April 2014, Bryant and Lillard came face to face. Bryant finished the game with 47 points and 8 rebounds, while Lillard posted 39 points and 9 assists. However, as the game to an end, it was clear that Bryant was incredibly impressed with Lillard. During a post-game interview, Bryant referred to Lillard as ‘serious’ and someone who is ‘not afraid of anything. “He’s got the whole package: he’s got the three-ball, he’s got the mid-range, get on to the rim, obviously. And we just had to go get him,” Bryant added.

He also called Lillard spectacular and fantastic. “A lot of players get hot, but he’s got the moves, patience, intelligence, the balance on his jumpers. He’s the real deal”. 

DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 23: Monte Morris (11) of the Denver Nuggets defends Damian Lillard (0) of the Portland Trail Blazers during the third quarter at Ball Arena on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Lillard also spoke about Bryant, talking about how he got to guard Bryant. “I enjoyed the challenge”. 

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Lillard and Bryant’s connection also goes back to the 2014 All-Star Game, where both teamed up to play for the Western Conference. Lillard was upset over getting a short time to play the game, which is when Bryant spoke to him. “You’re right where you’re supposed to be with everyone here. You’re an All-Star. Just keep working, young fella,” Bryant said.

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Lillard has often spoken about Bryant after the latter’s untimely death, sharing what the icon meant to him. Lillard, who will soon play the 2021-22 season, has also been compared to Bryant before.

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Just like the many people that Kobe inspired throughout the world, Lillard is also one of the star players today who is inspired by the Mamba mentality.

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Devika

329 articles

Devika Pawar is a golf and NBA writer at Essentially Sports. A psychology graduate from KJ Somaiya, Devika has an experience with sportswriting at Republic World for around two years now. She loves NBA a little too much, and is a dedicated Golden State Warriors fan.

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