As sports fans, we are always searching for that “next guy” who will take the reigns of his league and completely dominate anyone that attempts to stop him. It all began with the league’s original superstar, Elgin Baylor, descending down through the careers of Dr. J, Magic Johnson/Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.
Before His Airness hung up the famous #23 Bulls jersey in 1998, basketball fans around the world were already asking each other, “who’s the next Michael Jordan?” In the early-mid 90’s Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill were seen as possible successors to Air Jordan’s throne. However, sentiments in favor of Hardway and Hill were cut short, as both players suffered career-altering injuries, preventing them from ever reaching their full potential.
Following Hardaway and Hill came the next era of possible NBA alpha-dog suitors. This time, in a much more athletic, explosive and marketable mold as Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant came on to take the league by storm at the start of the new decade.
While McGrady and Carter were undoubtedly inhumanly talented; however, their careers were slowed by injuries and they ultimately lacked the desire and determination that is required to become the best. Kobe, on the other hand, took a different route; combining arguably the greatest work ethic in sports history with a killer instinct and an untapped offensive arsenal to create the closest thing to Jordan anyone had seen since No. 23 himself ruled the court.
Now that Kobe is (I cringe as I type this) nearing the latter portion of his spectacular (understatement) career, it’s about that time where people start bringing up the inevitable topic of discussion, “who is the next Kobe Bryant?”
Before we start drawing comparisons and dismissing nearly every player in the league from the conversation, it’s important to have a complete understanding of Kobe’s game, and what those attempting to mirror it are up against.