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Brandon Ingram says his favorite player was Kevin Durant, but he imitated Kobe Bryant on the playground

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Brandon Ingram is a big fan of two of the best scorers the game has ever seen: Kevin Durant, and retired Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
Nov 29, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) drives baseline defended by Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) during second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Ingram has always been a hard player to find a historical comparison for. Before the Los Angeles Lakers drafted him second overall in 2016, the lazy comp that everyone made was Kevin Durant, simply because Ingram was similarly skinny.

But Ingram is not Durant, and that’s fine. It doesn’t mean he’ll be a bad player, it just means he likely won’t be one of the best scorers in NBA history.

Which, again, is fine.

Still, it leaves our dumb brains with the same problem they started with: Trying to find a comparison so that we can categorize Ingram, and three years in, we really aren’t that much closer.

That’s what made Ingram’s thoughts on the matter so interesting. In a sit-down with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com on “Lakers Voices,” Ingram was asked which NBA star he imitated on the playground the most growing up, and he had an interesting answer:

”Well everybody said Kobe. The fadeaway from Kobe. I think that was it. I mean, my favorite player was Kevin Durant, but I don’t think I ever just tried to go out and imitate him. I think it was always Kobe.”

Now let’s get this out of the way: Ingram isn’t Kobe, either. And if you look at the three players’ stats through their third season (Ingram hasn’t completed his yet, obviously), Bryant and Durant were clearly a bit ahead of where Ingram is, production-wise:

Kobe-KD-Ingram Through Year Three Per-36

Rk Player From To G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Rk Player From To G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1 Kobe Bryant 1997 1999 200 57 5055 6.6 15.1 0.439 1.1 3.3 0.335 5.5 11.8 0.468 5.3 6.5 0.813 1.3 3.3 4.5 3.4 1.4 0.8 3 3.1 19.6
2 Kevin Durant 2008 2010 236 236 8892 8.3 17.9 0.462 1.1 3.2 0.361 7.1 14.7 0.483 6.5 7.3 0.882 1 4.9 5.9 2.5 1.2 0.9 2.9 1.7 24.2
3 Brandon Ingram 2017 2019 158 119 4869 5.6 12.6 0.443 0.8 2.4 0.328 4.8 10.1 0.47 2.8 4.3 0.651 1 4.3 5.2 3.2 0.8 0.7 2.3 2.8 14.7
Via Basketball-Reference

But while Ingram undeniably isn’t Bryant or Durant, his offensive game this season has sort of answered a question that no one was asking: “What if a young Durant had Bryant’s shot selection while playing alongside LeBron James?”

To be clear, that’s oversimplifying things a bit, but the pseudo-answer hasn’t been pretty, per NBA.com:

Brandon Ingram shooting splits
via NBA.com

Ingram is taking his second-most shots from the area he’s been the worst at high-volume early this season. That’s not great. The hatred the mid-range game gets online — like many things online — is overdramatic, but unless they’re Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge or some other historically solid mid-range shooter, it’s definitely not a place a player on a non-tanking team should be taking their second-most shots from.

Ingram has spoken about how he knows he needs to take more threes, so maybe progress is coming over the next several games when he returns from his ankle injury. Until then, it will continue to be hard to find a historical comparison for him, no matter who he grew up emulating.

All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.