Los Angeles Lakers: Damian Lillard is the Kobe Bryant of this generation

Damian Lillard (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Damian Lillard compares to an all-time Los Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant.

Yes, you read the title to this article correctly. Damian Lillard, the guy who is torching everyone in the Orlando bubble and is most likely going to square off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, is this generation’s Kobe Bryant.

Lillard has gone off the last three games in a way that Kobe would have in his heyday. After missing two free throws against the Los Angeles Clippers to lose the game, and then sparking a back and forth with him, Paul George and Patrick Beverley, Lillard’s killer instinct kicked in.

Lillard averaged 51.3 points in the last three seeding games for the Portland Trail Blazers, completely taking over the games and leading the Blazers to be the eighth seed in the West. He did it efficiently, shooting 56.1 percent from the floor and 48.8 percent from three, and did so in a flashy manner, draining threes from the NBA logo.

Now, I know what you are saying: Kobe Bryant is his own person and Damian Lillard is not him. That is true in a sense, but in terms of historical comparison, Kobe is the perfect player to relate Dame to. Yes, Dame is a point guard and Kobe a two-guard, but with how lethal Damian Lillard can be, it is hard to find a better comparison than Kobe Bryant.

Damian Lillard and Kobe Bryant: The comparison

First of all, let’s look at the things that we cannot really measure with stats: killer instinct and the clutch factor. Kobe Bryant had that and Damian Lillard might be the player with the most of that in the entire league.

Kobe hit so many incredible game-winners in his career, including hitting both the game-tying and game-winning shot against the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Playoffs. He was lethal.

Damian Lillard is lethal too. Lillard has not one, but two iconic game-winning shots that didn’t just win a playoff game, but clinched the entire series.

Example A:

Who else would take one of the best defenders in the league in Paul George in isolation and take a three from the next town over and make it with swagger? Kobe Bryant. Before this iconic shot that led Paul George to leave town, Lillard did something very similar against James Harden (and Patrick Beverley).

Example B:

Damian Lillard, man. This guy has ice water in his veins, just like Kobe Bryant. You know what else he has had (at least this far in his career)? Loyalty. Just like Bryant, Lillard has only played for one team in his career.

Granted, there is still a lot of career left to be played, but Lillard had more than enough chances to leave Portland or even request a trade, which has become prominent in the modern NBA. Not with Lillard. He signed the super-max extension to stay in Portland last summer.

And based on his comments towards George and Beverley about switching teams, I do not think Dame has any intentions of leaving town anytime soon.

What about the numbers?

This is where it gets eerily similar. If you look at the basic box score, Kobe Bryant has an advantage in his prime over Lillard’s prime. However, Kobe also spent more minutes on the court. If you account for per-36 stats, Lillard’s age 25-29 seasons are very similar to Kobe Bryant’s in his age 25-29.

Lillard has averaged 26.7 points, 6.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. Bryant averaged 26.8 points, 4.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds. Lillard shot 44.2 percent from the floor on 19.6 shots per 36 minutes, Bryant shot 45 percent from the floor on 19.8 shots per 36 minutes. Lillard shot 37.5 percent from three in 8.5 average attempts, Bryant 34.6 percent in 4.7 average attempts.

Bryant was the better defender but Lillard is no slouch on the defensive end, either. Lillard is also the better facilitator, which is natural because of his position.

From age 25 to 29, Lillard has a 24.4 PER, Bryant had a 25.2 PER. Lillard averaged .201 win-shared per 48 minutes, Bryant averaged .199 win-shares per 48 minutes (a minuscule difference).

The elephant in the room is that Kobe Bryant already had three championships, Lillard has never been to the NBA Finals. While Kobe was a big reason for the Los Angeles Lakers three-peat, he also had a lot of help from the most dominant player in the league at that time, Shaquille O’Neal.

That is like if Lillard had this version of Giannis Antetokounmpo with him earlier in his career. He would probably be a three-time champion as well. It is nothing against Kobe, but Kobe definitely had much more help earlier in his career than Lillard ever had.

Even Kobe knew.


Next. 10 greatest Kobe Bryant games of all-time. dark

Lillard will need at least one championship, especially if he does it on a team without a second superstar, to cement the comparison. The Los Angeles Lakers are (hopefully) going to make sure that it doesn’t come this year.