The interest in Thomas Bryant has picked up since the LA Lakers acquired him in free agency. One of the biggest assumptions some fans have of the big man is his relationship to Lakers legend, the late Kobe Bryant.
The fact is, Thomas Bryant and Kobe Bryant are not even remotely related. They simply happen to have the same family name. The former was born in 1997 when “The Black Mamba” jumped from high school to the NBA. Thomas eventually made it to the pro league two years after the Hall of Famer retired.
Thomas Bryant’s parents were known to be big basketball fans and even played college ball. Both, however, didn’t play professional hoops.
Kobe Bryant’s story, meanwhile, is well-chronicled. He was the son of Joe Bryant, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers and the Houston Rockets in the NBA. “Jellybean” also played for several years in Italy and France.
“KB24” learned basketball at an early age. After years in Italy, he went on to star for Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia before deciding to join the 1996 NBA draft. Kobe Bryant played his entire legendary career with the LA Lakers.
Thomas Bryant, on the other hand, is still trying to find his way in the cutthroat world of the NBA. The LA Lakers picked him in the second round of the 2017 draft and shipped him to the Washington Wizards after his rookie year.
The Indiana University product started showing his potential outside the circus surrounding the LA Lakers. From averaging 1.5 points per game (PPG) as a rookie, he improved to 10.5 PPG in his first season with the Wizards, leading the NBA in 2-point field-goal percentage with 68.5%.
His scoring averages improved in each of his first three years in Washington, and he looked ready to explode before injuries halted his progress.
He is now back with the LA Lakers on a one-year contract, teaming up with former Wizards teammate Russell Westbrook.
Thomas Bryant still has to earn minutes at center for the LA Lakers
During the second day of training camp, head coach Darvin Ham revealed the starting unit that he has been using in scrimmages. He named Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Damian Jones.
If Ham rolls out this lineup during the regular season, Thomas Bryant will likely be Jones’ backup. He could earn decent minutes in this setup, but if the LA Lakers end up trading for Myles Turner, Bryant’s minutes could become scarce.
Bryant’s status on the roster came under threat in the Lakers’ first preseason game, where Wenyen Gabriel starred. Gabriel averaged 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 19 games last season, and his energy and hustle were refreshing to see.
Gabriel continued that form in the Lakers’ first preseason game. If he consistently puts up such performances, Gabriel could steal some of Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant’s precious minutes.
Bryant, however, looks to be the most naturally skilled among the three LA Lakers centers. If he gets his confidence back and his body holds up, he could be a crucial addition to the purple and gold franchise.