DeMar DeRozan gifts honorary basketball to idol Kobe Bryant

Wednesday marked the 125th anniversary of basketball's invention inside a Massachusetts gymnasium, where Dr. James Naismith nailed a peach basket to the building's wall. In honor of how far the sport has come since those early days, NBA basketball manufacturer Spalding recently launched its "Honor the Game" digital marketing campaign.

As part of the celebration, Spalding sent commemorative black basketballs to various brand endorsers, including DeMar DeRozan. The Toronto Raptors shooting guard received two basketballs -- one to keep and one to give to someone who he believes impacted the game.

The decision was an easy one for DeRozan, a Southern California native who grew up idolizing former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant and his midrange jumper. Years of studying Bryant's moves have elevated DeRozan into arguably the best midrange player in the NBA today.

Bryant, who retired last season after playing 20 years as a shooting guard for the Lakers, responded to DeRozan on Twitter while giving a nod to their shared skill set.

DeRozan, an eight-year veteran and a two-time All-Star, is averaging 27.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season -- all career highs. Bryant is third on the NBA's all-time scoring list with33,643 points.

-- Nick Ostiller
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