Bryant Leaves Quite an Early Impression


The kid is all right.

Four traveling calls in 26 minutes, and five turnovers in all, meant that Kobe Bryant was pressing Saturday night in his pro debut with the Lakers’ summer league team.

But his ability to break down defenders and get to the basket, to generate excitement and to create scoring opportunities from all over the court showed why the 17-year-old swingman, trying to make a successful jump from high school to the NBA, is all the rave.

Bryant went four of 10 from the field and 18 of 20 from the free-throw line, finishing with 27 points along with two rebounds, but no assists in a 123-113 loss to the Detroit Pistons. A standing-room-only crowd of about 5,000 filled the Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach to witness his coming out party, only about five times more than other Laker games have drawn this summer.


The numbers, of course, are meaningless. The reactions are not.

“I think the kid is a tremendous athlete,” said Alvin Gentry, the Piston assistant coach who ran the team Saturday. “I don’t want to compare anybody to [Michael] Jordan. But he’s Jordan-like in the way he makes spectacular plays, the way he can get his shot, the way he can handle the ball, and he has a great court temperament. You’ll see that once he gets some experience, those traveling calls will disappear.”

Said Laker Coach Del Harris, who watched from various vantage points around the Pyramid while assistant Larry Drew ran the team: “It is the L.A. summer league, which is nowhere near NBA ball, but it is a step between college and the pros. It doesn’t mean everything, but it does mean something.”

Like that, the first game is out of the way.

“Just a lot of nervous energy,” is how Bryant described his emotions. “I wanted to come out, I wanted to do well, I wanted to show the crowd I can play.”

Mission accomplished.