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“He Grew a Fro I Grew a Fro”: DeMar DeRozan Dishes on How Big of An Inspiration Kobe Bryant Was For Him

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

"He Grew A Fro I Grew A Fro": DeMar DeRozan Dishes On How Big of An Inspiration Kobe Bryant Was For Him

While the late, great Kobe Bryant has inspired many in the league, DeMar DeRozan has always been vocal about the Lakers legend’s impact on his life and career. The two developed a special bond as fellow athletes. Years before they first interacted on the basketball court, the forward had already picked him as his hero, when he was growing up as a Los Angeles Lakers fan in Compton.

During his appearance on the ‘Pivot Podcast’, DeRozan revealed that he tried to emulate Bryant in every possible way, from his on-court moves to his off-court style. He even wept during the guard’s worst moments,

“I’ll never forget when I was seven, he shot all those airballs in Utah, I cried. I sat there and cried. I felt some type of way. And from that moment, he was my motivation. When he grew a fro, I grew a fro and tried to push it back so [it could look like Kobe’s]…”

DeRozan added that without using Bryant as motivation and trying to emulate him, he’d have never become the All-Star-calibre player he grew up to be. He even credited the superstar for inspiring his classic fadeaway, “My fadeaway was inspiration from him. In everything, Kobe was my imagination.”

It was difficult not to be inspired by the Lakers guard’s turnaround following his disastrous Game 5 performance against the Utah Jazz in the 1997 playoffs. The rookie shot four airballs in five minutes in an elimination game that the Lakers lost narrowly.

Bryant was ridiculed for his spectacular flameout, but instead of letting it bog him down, he used it as motivation and spent the entire offseason training. The following season, he doubled his points, rebounds, and assists, and earned an All-Star nod despite starting only one game.

It was hard for a kid like DeRozan growing up in Los Angeles County not to be inspired by Bryant’s impeccable response to failure. He was among the droves who made the Lakers star their idol, but he’s among the handful who made it to the NBA and earned the opportunity to call him a peer and a friend.

The Bulls forward was so inspired by that incident, and the Mamba’s response to it, that Nike even dedicated a signature shoe to his first memory of the legend.

DeMar DeRozan’s ‘AirBall Game’ inspired shoes

DeMar DeRozan is among the several NBA stars who swear by Kobe Bryant’s signature shoe and wear them during games. However, he’s perhaps the only player to get a signature Kobe shoe. In April 2017, Nike launched the Nike Kobe A.D. ‘DeRozan PE’, inspired by Bryant’s ‘AirBall Game’ against the Jazz and Compton.

The insole had Compton printed on it and the lace tips had the inscription of the date of the ‘AirBall Game.’ It was a special shoe for DeRozan as it paid homage to two of his greatest motivations. The following year, Nike launched another variant of the Nike Kobe A.D. “DeRozan PE,” but the first will always hold a special place in the Bulls star’s heart and his sneaker collection.

Post Edited By:Hitesh Nigam

About the author

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar


Jay Lokegaonkar is a basketball journalist who has been following the sports as a fan 2005. He has worked in a slew of roles covering the NBA, including writer, editor, content manager, social media manager, and head of content since 2018. However, his primary passion is writing about the NBA. Especially throwback stories about the league's iconic players and franchises. Revisiting incredible tales and bringing scarcely believable stories to readers are one his main interests as a writer.

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