Judgement Day: Who Is The “Next Kobe Bryant”
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (L) fights for a rebound with Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant during the second half of Game 1 of their NBA Western Conference playoff series in Los Angeles, April 18, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

The last hope to take the reigns lies in the hands of a 21-year old kid named Kevin Durant, or as others refer to him: “Durantula”. At six-foot-nine, Durant is one of the most talented offensive players to ever step on the hardwood. In addition to his immense set of skills, Durant is arguably the most humble superstar athlete in professional sports today. He’s early success and humility put him further ahead than Kobe was at 21. Although Kobe won his first title at 21, Durant is slowly becoming everyone’s favorite player–a perfect candidate for the new face of the league.

Durant makes scoring 30 points a game look easier than putting on pants, as his quickness, silky jumper and obscene seven-foot-four wingspan allows him to score on just about anybody. He’s arguably the best in the league at getting to the line and converting his free-throws (as he averaged just over 10 free throws a game this past season and converted on 90% of them).

His rebounding improves with every game he plays and his defense is slowly but surely becoming one of his many strengths. If there is one player as skilled as Kobe Bryant, it’s this kid.

The extent of Durant’s humility is so extensive that it could almost be viewed as a fault. He wants to win so bad, but he doesn’t want to shut out his teammates, so even though he is the best player on the floor 99% of the time, he defers to them, sometimes too often. It’s a tough call whether he has that killer-instinct or not, but he is unquestionably a great player and an even greater teammate.

He has a love for the game and wants to be the best player he can be, but he’s learned from the mistakes of those before him: be the best, but don’t make an ass of yourself while doing so. Jordan, Allen Iverson, Kobe all went through their bouts of immaturity and LeBron is experiencing his now. If Durant can somehow steer clear of that area (or do so minimally) the league is his.

Apr. 14, 2010 - Oklahoma City, OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES - epa02117226 Oklahoma City Thunder player Kevin Durant goes in for a dunk against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second half of the game at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, 14 April 2010.

He is already surrounded by a group of extremely talented and young players who have great chemistry together. If they are able to continue improving at the rate they have been, and keep gaining experience, they will be one of the toughest, most exciting teams in the league in no time. Durant has already shown his commitment to the franchise, signing a five-year extension with Oklahoma City. With the right pieces already around him, Durantula is in the perfect situation to make the NBA his, as expectations of multiple MVP awards and championships are quickly surrounding him.

He may not be the six-foot-six, 200+ pound shooting guard with daggers eyes and a “you don’t want to know what will happen if you piss me off” mentality. However, he is his own player. If he continues being who he is and maturing as a player, the NBA and its fans should welcome him with open arms as their new poster-child.

I never really got to see Michael Jordan play that much, so I have yet to fully understood the imprint he left when he retired in 1998. I’ve realized I cannot completely appreciate him as a player because I hardly witnessed his career.

However, with Kobe coming closer and closer to the end of his storybook tenure, with each seasons pass, I am beginning to grasp the feeling that everyone had when it was time to say good-bye to Michael Jordan. With that being said, I do not consider Kobe to be as great as Michael Jordan; instead I see him as a player who has truly altered this era of basketball in a way only a few have done and even fewer will be able to match.

Whoever does it; I’m excited to be able to witness it, as should everyone else who considers themselves basketball fans, because getting the chance to see players such as Magic, Bird, Jordan and Kobe only come around so often. They are doing the things we dreamed of doing every day as we shot hoops in our backyard as kids.

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