Similarities Between Rookie Seasons of Zach LaVine and Kobe Bryant


Zach LaVine’s rookie season has been full of ups and downs. When he was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves 13th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, it was seen as a risky pick by Vice President of Operations, part-owner, and head coach Flip Saunders. While LaVine had a ton of upside, he also showed tendencies that could lead to a very mediocre NBA career.

As LaVine has progressed this season, he has shown a lot of similarities to a certain NBA legend when he was a rookie, and he also used to wear number eight on his jersey.

That’s right, Zach LaVine’s rookie season happens to be very similar to Kobe Bryant’s.

Let me first say that in no way am I trying to tell you that Zach LaVine will turn into a perennial All-Star and lead the Timberwolves to five NBA championships (although, I wouldn’t mind that). This is simply an explanation of how LaVine’s rookie season stacks up with Bryant’s and I think you’ll be surprised.

For starters, LaVine wears number eight on his jersey, and Bryant wore number eight. While this really has nothing to do with their performance on the court, it’s just the beginning of the similarities. Additionally, both guys were teenagers for at least the majority of their rookie seasons. (LaVine has just turned 20 years old on March 10th)

Live Feed

NBA Power Rankings: Tiering all 30 projected starting point guards for 2023-24
NBA Power Rankings: Tiering all 30 projected starting point guards for 2023-24 /

Sir Charles In Charge

  • NBA rumors: Trae Young trade buzz, Andre Drummond is a comedian, Wemby and KAT team upFanSided
  • These NBA stars might switch teams sooner rather than laterAll U Can Heat
  • Is Karl-Anthony Towns entering his final season with Minnesota TimberwolvesSir Charles In Charge
  • Ex-teammate's prediction about Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards could benefit HawksSoaring Down South
  • NBA Rumors: Anthony Edwards will inevitably ask out of Minnesota?Sir Charles In Charge
  • Both LaVine and Bryant had similar attributes entering the NBA. They were young, raw, and inexperienced players that would need to learn quite a bit. Also, they were seen as incredibly athletic players that could put up points in a hurry with their shooting ability. As we’ve seen so far in LaVine’s rookie season, he definitely has that capability. For example, he put up 28 points on 11/14 shooting at Staples Center against the Lakers earlier in the season while scoring 18 of those points in the third quarter. Additionally, in a home game against the Celtics, LaVine was able to score 13 points in the third quarter.

    In Bryant’s rookie season, he wasn’t the high-profile young superstar that LeBron James or Kevin Durant was. Bryant had a relatively quiet rookie year compared to what people may think, although he did show in a few games that he could put up points in a hurry, much like LaVine. Bryant scored his season-high 24 points against the Warriors in which he shot an incredibly efficient 9/11 from the field. Another example of Bryant showing some of his scoring potential came in a game against Detroit in which he put up 21 points on 8/13 shooting. In both of these games, he got hot and his shooting percentage shows that.

    As rookies, neither LaVine nor Bryant have been seen as “go-to” type scorers for their teams. However, they flashed some of the potential to be that guy in a few games.

    Something that absolutely cannot be forgotten is that LaVine and Bryant both won the slam dunk contest as rookies. In a way, this was how both players were able to make a name for themselves across the league. Since watching LaVine in the dunk contest was a fun time, let’s watch it again.

    Of course, now you have to stack up LaVine’s performance against Bryant’s, so here is Bryant’s performance in the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk contest.

    The most strikingly similar aspect of the LaVine and Bryant comparison is their statistics from their rookie seasons. Surprisingly, they match up pretty well.

    According to, in LaVine’s rookie season he is averaging 8.0 points per game, 2.3 rebounds per game and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 42.4% from the field, 33.3% from three-point range and 82% from the free throw line. LaVine has managed to put up these numbers in just over 21 minutes per game. says that Bryant’s rookie numbers include 7.6 points per game, 1.3 rebounds per game and 1.9 assists per game while shooting 41.7% from the field, 37.5% from three and 81.9% from the free throw line. Bryant played slightly over 15 minutes per game while putting up these numbers.

    More from Timberwolves News

    Crazy, right? These two groups of statistics are almost identical. LaVine’s bump in assists per game is due to all of the injuries at point guard this season, forcing LaVine to play point quite a bit. Clearly, LaVine’s natural position is the 2-guard, where he isn’t relied upon to lead the offense. If Rubio hadn’t gone down with the ankle injury that cost him nearly half the season, LaVine’s numbers would match Bryant’s even more. Indeed, these players had not only attributes that were very similar, but also astonishingly alike statistics.

    In case you want to see them side by side, here are a couple highlight videos. The first one is a compilation of LaVine highlights so far in his rookie season.

    Since I couldn’t find much of a highlight compilation for Bryant, here’s a clip of the 21-point performance from Bryant’s rookie year against Detroit.

    As I wrap this up, I want to reiterate what I said at the beginning. In no way am I saying that Zach LaVine will become an All-Star year after year and lead the Timberwolves to five NBA championships. Please do not go get a tattoo of LaVine with a trophy or anything.

    However, Zach LaVine and Kobe Bryant have a lot of similarities as rookies. Both players have plenty of talent and incredible athleticism, among other things. These similarities can show the potential that LaVine actually has. If Kobe Bryant can turn into an NBA legend after having the rookie showing he did, there’s no doubt that LaVine can turn himself into a quality combo guard in the NBA.