Lakers: D’Angelo Russell Isn’t Kobe Bryant, And That’s Okay


The lights are the brightest when you play in Los Angeles but fans would be wise to realize that D’Angelo Russell isn’t Kobe Bryant

Lakers fans have been quick to jump on D’Angelo Russell for his lack of killer instinct, his lack of visible drive, passion, whatever you want to call it, often looking “nonchalant.” Byron Scott prefers players to “get mean,” and take the initiative.

The truth of the matter is, D’Angelo Russell may not be that type of player, and that’s okay.

In an interview with Mark Medina, coach Scott spoke about second year big man Tarik Black saying, “The biggest thing I told him last year was he’s too nice. He has to get some type of mean streak in him. Then he can be a monster.”

But what exactly does getting “mean” entail? Even Black doesn’t have that answer.

"He hasn’t broken it down what it means to be meaner, so I’m not sure. But at the same time, he’s my coach, man. He’s the captain of the ship. So if he has thoughts about how we should grow, get better and play in his system, I’ll abide by it. We’ve talked about it, but we need to keep talking about it. As I find out more of what he wants out of me, I’ll have to mold to that."

Considering Scott’s high praise of Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, it seems that the two veterans possess exactly what he’s looking for.

Aside from Julius Randle, the Lakers young stars don’t seem to have this “mean” streak in them.

Despite being compared to Russell Westbrook, Jordan Clarkson has yet to show the “mean” that Westbrook demonstrates on a nightly basis. Screaming after hammering down thunderous dunks, celebrating every three pointer like he just hit the game winning shot in the NBA Finals, Westbrook embodies “mean.”

Even after throwing down this vicious dunk on rival rookie, Dante Exum, Clarkson’s celebration was mundane compared to Westbrook.

The same can be said about D’Angelo Russell. Just watch any one of his high school mixtapes and it’s easy to see that Russell is more Derrick Rose than Westbrook in demeanor.

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Dwayne Wade said it best in an ESPN interview, “The Kobe Bryants aren’t around no more. There are good young players, but there will never be another Kobe.”

Lakers fans have grown so accustomed to Kobe Bryant taking over games loudly, verbally crushing teammates who don’t perform to his liking, that they’ve neglected the fact that there are other ways to lead.

While it may be true that it is better to be feared than loved, why not take a page out of Michael Scott’s book and make people afraid of how much they love you.

Though this sentiment will get misunderstood, and likely taken out of context, Russell may be more Lebron James than Kobe Bryant.

The secret lies in the fact that Lebron tends to build up his teammates rather than put them on blast.. aside from his mom… and Mario Chalmers. This is considered one of Lebron’s biggest flaws, at least in the eyes of his critics, the idea that he doesn’t have the same cutthroat leadership style as Jordan, or even Kobe.

That said, it’s apparent that whatever Lebron is doing works, however different it may be from his predecessors.

Looking at D’Angelo Russell’s career trajectory, he is truly a vision of consistency.

In high school Russell wasn’t even the best player on the team, playing behind Kasey Hill, Dakari Johnson, and Ben Simmons his senior year, but he still found a way to get recruited by one of the best college programs in the country in Ohio State.

Sticking to the script, in college Russell went from a player who was expected to stay for a few years, to a player who was the number two overall pick in the NBA Draft. Knowing this, shouldn’t Russell’s recent struggles signal that he’s right on track to NBA stardom?

Next: Lakers Road Back to Relevance Hinges Heavily on Free Agency

D’Angelo Russell isn’t Kobe Bryant, and that’s okay. The sooner fans and the critics realize this, the easier they’ll be able to recognize that for a 19 year old kid, Russell is way ahead of schedule.