Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Emoni Bates has seemingly been grinding in the offseason to prove that he belongs in the league. He recently made a post on Instagram to show his work, also displaying his love for Kobe Bryant by including an image of the late Los Angeles Lakers legend.
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This isn’t the first time Bates has displayed his admiration for Bryant. After the sports icon died in 2020, Bates, who was still a sophomore in high school then, temporarily switched his jersey number to No. 24 from his usual No. 21. Playing in honor of the “Black Mamba,” the forward scored 42 points to lead his team to victory.
At the time, the Michigan native was seen as one of the nation’s top prospects, even appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 15 years old. While he eventually became a five-star recruit, his draft stock fell in college due to struggles with his new role and injuries in his freshman season.
After spending a year each with the University of Memphis and Eastern Michigan University, Bates declared for the 2023 NBA Draft. He was projected by some to go late in the first round or early in the second round. Ultimately, he fell all the way to the No. 49 spot, where the Cavs scooped him up.
The 19-year-old has a lot to prove. But looking up to Bryant, who had troubles adjusting to the league during his rookie campaign, could serve as inspiration for the former highly touted prospect.
Interestingly, Bates plays a position where the Cavs have a massive need. It’s unclear how much playing time he will get in Cleveland, and considering that he signed a two-way contract with the organization, there will even be days when Bates suits up for the Cavs’ NBA G League affiliate.
However, based on his recent social media post, Bates might have no problem earning his keep. He is off to a good start after helping Cleveland bring home this year’s Summer League title, even flexing on his haters in the process.
It remains to be seen if the lanky swingman can continue his improvement. But the Cavs organization and its fans are hoping that Bates can prove to be the steal of the 2023 draft.