Many basketball fans have wondered if Thomas Bryant, the young center for the Los Angeles Lakers, has any relation to the late Kobe Bryant, the legendary Lakers icon and Hall of Famer. The two players share the same surname, but is there more to it than that?
The Short Answer: No
The simple answer is no, Thomas Bryant and Kobe Bryant are not related in any way. They just happen to have a common last name that is also associated with basketball greatness.
Thomas Bryant was born in 1997, when Kobe was already a rookie in the NBA after skipping college. Thomas grew up in Rochester, New York, and played college basketball at Indiana University. He was drafted by the Utah Jazz in the second round of the 2017 NBA draft, but was traded to the Lakers on draft night.
Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, was born in 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Joe Bryant, a former NBA player who also played overseas in Italy and France. Kobe spent part of his childhood in Italy, where he learned to speak fluent Italian and developed his love for soccer. He returned to the US and starred at Lower Merion High School, before declaring for the 1996 NBA draft. He was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick, but was traded to the Lakers on draft day.
The Long Answer: Different Paths, Similar Destinations
While Thomas Bryant and Kobe Bryant are not related by blood or family ties, they do share some similarities in their basketball journeys. Both players ended up playing for the Lakers, one of the most storied franchises in NBA history. Both players also faced some challenges and adversity along the way.
Thomas Bryant had to prove himself as a second-round pick who was waived by the Lakers after his rookie season. He signed with the Washington Wizards, where he showed flashes of potential as a versatile big man who could shoot from outside and finish inside. He also suffered some injuries that hampered his development, including a torn ACL that sidelined him for most of the 2020-21 season. He returned to the Lakers in 2022 as a free agent, hoping to contribute to a championship contender led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Kobe Bryant had to overcome doubts about his readiness to play in the NBA as a high school phenom. He also had to deal with being traded on draft night and playing in the shadow of Shaquille O’Neal, his dominant but sometimes difficult teammate. He endured some early playoff failures and personal controversies that threatened his reputation and legacy. He eventually became one of the greatest players of all time, winning five championships with the Lakers and cementing his status as an icon of the game. He tragically died in a helicopter crash in 2020, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others.
The Bottom Line: Respect and Inspiration
Despite having no relation to Kobe Bryant, Thomas Bryant has expressed his admiration and respect for him as a player and a person. He has said that he grew up watching Kobe and learning from his work ethic and mentality. He has also honored him by wearing his jersey number 24 during his time with the Wizards.
Thomas Bryant is not related to Kobe Bryant, but he is inspired by him. He is also trying to carve his own niche in the NBA and make his own name as a Laker. He may not reach the same heights as Kobe did, but he can still follow his example of striving for excellence and competing with passion.