Over the course of this past weekend, Kobe Bryant, along with others, were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
It was the first year he was eligible for the Hall of Fame and rightly so he was a first-ballot hall of famer. But before Kobe was inducted this past weekend, I sparked an interesting conversation in our Slack group chat with some of the Benchers.
I was scrolling through Twitter and came across this video of a young, I’m pretty sure he was just a rookie at the time, Kyrie, trying to coax Bryant into a game of 1 v. 1 for 50k.
I don’t know why it this video in particular sparked this thought. Maybe it was the nature of Kyrie, at such a young age, challenging Kobe, one of the greatest players to lace them up, to a game of 1 v. 1. Whatever it was, it was an interesting conversation.
After watching the video, I posed this question to the guys in the chat.
I got a couple of different answers. Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum, DeMar Derozan, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, Jimmy Butler, Pascal Siakam (lol Dre) and Kyrie were all mentioned in the conversation.
I can agree with a few, I can disagree with a lot. But it motivated me to put together a list of the Top 5 players who I believe could become the next Kobe. Obviously, none of these players will ever come close to Kobe but I thought it would be an interesting conversation to see who could fill the shoes left by the Black Mamba.
To determine this list, I took a few things into account. Type of game, work ethic and mentality.
Once again, obviously no one is going to resemble Kobe to a T, but I believe these five players are the ones that come the closest.
5. Jayson Tatum
So Tatum is one of several Mamba disciples. He’s literally tailored his game after Kobe and even trained with him before Kobe passed. He’s got the style of game that Kobe displayed over the course of his career. He’s got the mid-range fadeaway and solid three-point range. I just don’t think Tatum has the complete mindset in his game just yet.
4. Kyrie Irving
Irving is another Mamba disciple. He was one of the players that was visibly affected the most by the passing of Kobe as he was a mentor to Kyrie over the past few years. There was even a rumor that right after the Cavs won the title in 2016, Kyrie called Kobe right after to celebrate with him. On top of that, Kyrie has the killer instinct that Kobe always had. He has the talent and the ability but it doesn’t particular match Kobe’s style of play.
3. Jimmy Butler
I can take credit for the placing of Butler on this list, but I can’t take credit for the idea that he should be included. Butler was a “Dre Child” and I couldn’t disagree. He’s got the killer mentality of being a boss on the court, playing defense, and doing whatever it takes to win. Ever since his dilemma with the Timberwolves, Butler has been seen as a team killer, but I think his mentality was just never matched by his teammates. Look where he is now with the Heat. Before the shutdown, they were the 4th best team in the East.
2. Kawhi Leonard
So, Kawhi was literally the first name to pop up in the conversation and I literally couldn’t disagree. Due to his recent success, his talent, his robotic nature and his style of play, both defensively and offensively, people might think that he’s the one the most resembles Mamba, but I just couldn’t put him at No. 1. But he’s definitely close.
1. Devin Booker
This is my guy. HANDS DOWN. Booker has idolized Kobe since he was younger. With an array of mid-range jumpers and skillful shooting, he’s resembled Kobe’s game to a T. When he dropped 70 against the Celtics, it was the most points scored by a single player in a single game since Kobe dropped 81 against Toronto.
He’s only 23 years old and has a full career ahead of him. I mean let’s just do a little comparison.
During Kobe’s final season, when the Lakers made the trip to Phoenix, Booker dribbled up the court and used one of Kobe’s own moves on him. After that game, Kobe also gave Booker a pair of shoes and signed them “Be Legendary”. Then, after Kobe’s death, Booker got that phrase tattooed on his forearm in Kobe’s handwriting.
The two players shared a special connection and I don’t think people realize the similarities because of the market Booker plays in. He doesn’t get a lot of exposure, but his game shares a lot of similarities to Bryant’s.
You also know you hit the nail on the head when Deke agrees with you after doing his fair share of research.
So. Who do you think is the next Kobe Bryant?