Last April, Kobe Bryant ended his NBA career on a high note. The five-time NBA champion led the Los Angeles Lakers to a win over the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center with an incredible 60-point performance, adding yet another unforgettable moment to his Hall of Fame-caliber resume.
Bryant was a one-of-a-kind talent that may never be seen again. The longevity, a seemingly endless string of individual accolades, five titles and being almost certainly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Bryant is a hard act to follow.
Although it’s hard to imagine the Lakers finding another player of Kobe’s caliber, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar chimed in on the topic and had something interesting to say in a recent interview with Maria Karvouni of Sportskeeda:
Q: Kobe Bryant retired a few months ago. Will the Lakers ever find a player like him again?
KAJ: Inevitably, there will be more players like Kobe, but who can say if that player will be a Laker? The management must have that rare combination of ability to spot potential talent early and commitment to nurture that talent in order to build a great team. There is nothing more exciting than watching a good player with potential bloom into a great player. There are plenty of players with potential who never develop past that.
With Bryant’s career coming to an end after 20 seasons in purple and gold, the Lakers franchise has to move with a promising young core of players. Although D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and rookie Brandon Ingram have shown potential, no one is pegging any of these three players as the next Kobe Bryant.
There’s no question the Lakers may have something brewing with this young core and head coach Luke Walton leading the way with his progressive and modern style play in Los Angeles. Despite that being case, the next superstar or Kobe-like player in a Lakers uniform may be a few years down the road as no player has emerged as one to build the franchise around.
At this point, with 15 wins and 30 losses this season, the storied franchise is headed toward another disappointing end to a season. A bright future could be on the horizon, but as of now, the struggle continues for a team that was once synonymous with winning with Bryant as the undisputed leader.