RJ Barrett doesn't want to be called the "Maple Mamba" anymore.
The New York Knicks rookie told reporters prior to the team's game against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday that he wants to retire the nickname out of respect for Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who was one of the nine individuals who passed away in a helicopter crash over the weekend.
"I don't want to get called that anymore," Barrett said. "Somebody great like that, to lose him in that way, is really sad. Even to this day you just think about it and it keeps replaying in my mind. It's tough."
RJ Barrett told reporters in Charlotte tonight that he would like to retire his "Maple Mamba" nickname out of respect to Kobe Bryant.- NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) January 28, 2020
A native of Toronto, Ontario, Barrett was given the nickname during his one and only season at Duke, where he averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Those numbers helped him earn a number of accolades, including first-team All-American and first-team All-ACC.
Barrett went on to be the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
On the night of the draft, Barrett had his "Maple Mamba" nickname embroidered on the inside of his suit jacket.
"I've always said I loved his mentality," Barrett continued when talking about Bryant. "I always tried to play that way. He had an 'I don't care' mentality. He worked so hard. He played so hard all the time. I try to emulate that a lot."
Barrett is averaging 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game this season. He's been sidelined since Jan. 18 with a sprained ankle.
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