Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners didn’t need much outside inspiration as the team squared off against the Oregon Ducks with a trip to the Final Four on the line. But the team — and especially the star player who turned in an NCAA Tournament high for points in a game — received that as Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant took in the game Saturday.
To say that Buddy Hield and his Oklahoma Sooner teammates put on a performance for his idol Kobe Bryant at the Honda Center is an understatement. With the NBA legend and future Hall of Famer taking in the action, Buddy Hield unleashed a 37-point barrage against the West Region’s top seed to send the Oklahoma Sooners to the Final Four Saturday, Sports Illustrated reported.
— Lakerholicz.com (@Lakerholicz) March 25, 2016
The talk of this NCAA Tournament win was Buddy Hield. The Oklahoma Sooners guard spoke frequently about the other famous No. 24 (Kobe Bryant) in the stands to watch the game. Speaking with ESPN‘s Brett Murphy following his outing, Buddy Hield told him that he was ready to impress his basketball hero Kobe Bryant.
“As soon as I saw Kobe was here, I knew I had to put on a show. Blame it on Kobe.”
Buddy Hield — who went 13-for-20 from the field on the game — explained how deep his appreciation runs for the retiring NBA legend in the Sports Illustrated article. The Oklahoma Sooners athlete also went 8-of-13 from the three-point line, a performance reminiscent of Kobe Bryant during his prime.
“Everyone who knows me knows I’m a Kobe Bryant fanatic. You know you have to perform when The Mamba is in town.”
That wasn’t the first time the Oklahoma Sooners’ star told the media he would have performed a notch higher if he knew the basketball play he looked up to for years was there to watch his game. After the Sweet 16 game Thursday, Buddy Hield found out that Kobe Bryant was in attendance, meeting him briefly for a photograph and small chat. Reporters later asked what Buddy Hield thought about having Kobe Bryant watching from the stands, to which he replied he would have scored more than his 17 points, Fox Sports reported.
Kobe Bryant is oohing & ahhing over the Buddy Hield show. Hield said last game had he known Kobe was in the house, he wouldve scored more.
— Jill Painter Lopez (@jillpainter) March 26, 2016
But even with the adulation being lauded at Buddy Hield, the senior stopped short of agreeing with reporters about the comparisons in the two players’ games. “I’m not Kobe Bryant,” Buddy Hield said during the postgame press conference. “They should not compare me… I just make shots. It’s kinda cool, but me and Kobe is in two different classes.”
What did Buddy have to say about it?https://t.co/j2hTqoXwfw
— Campus Insiders (@CampusInsiders) March 27, 2016
Kobe Bryant was equally impressed watching Buddy Hield on Saturday. In telling Bleacher Report that he was “blown away” by the guard’s play in the Elite Eight game, Bryant went on to tell Jason King his favorite aspects of the soon-to-be NBA draft prospect.
“I just love his motor. I love his passion and his energy. He puts everything he has into the game. Lots of guys go hard out there, but with him, it’s a on a different level. You can see it on his face. He truly loves every minute that he’s out there.”
With his nearly 29 points-per-game performance during the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Buddy Hield isn’t only gaining comparisons to Kobe Bryant. The Oklahoma Sooners player becomes the first player in more than a quarter century to enter the Final Four after averaging 25 points a game during the regular season, Deadline reported. His dominance in this tournament has led to comparisons to the 2008 NCAA Tournament performance of Steph Curry, or the hot streak Kemba Walker enjoyed en route to the 2011 National Championship.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) March 27, 2016
Buddy Hield is leading the Oklahoma Sooners to their first Final Four in more than a decade. The Sooners last participated in a Final Four match-up in 2002, losing to eventual runners-up Indiana. Oklahoma last played in the NCAA Championship Game in 1988, years before Buddy Hield was born.
Their opponent in this year’s Final Four will be a rematch against Villanova, a team the Sooners beat earlier this year in a game played in Hawaii. The Wildcats will be looking to avenge a 23-point set-back from their December 9 contest with the Oklahoma Sooners. In the game against Villanova, Buddy Hield had 18 points off 4-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc.
Do you think Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners can win their first NCAA Championship in men’s basketball? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
[Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]