In honour of Kobe Bryant's 40th birthday on Thursday, we're rolling out Kobe Week! Each day we'll be celebrating his finest moments, pondering the unanswerable questions and diving into a legacy that's among the most storied in all of sports.
With a current generation of pros that grew up emulating Kobe Bryant, his influence is evident on a nightly basis throughout the NBA. As elements of his game, approach and demeanour have been adopted by a number of players, the experts debate: Who is the next Kobe?
Scott Rafferty ( @crabdribbles ): DeMar DeRozan's game reminds me the most of Kobe Bryant. Not only does the four-time All-Star do his best work from midrange and live at the free throw line, DeRozan took his post game to another level a couple of seasons ago by stealing Kobe's moves . Kobe was a better passer, 3-point shooter and defender than DeRozan, but the way DeRozan gets to his spots and creates separation is Kobe-like.
MORE: How Kobe fared one-on-one against the biggest stars
Gilbert McGregor ( @GMcGregor21 ): Kobe set himself apart from everyone else with his supreme confidence, fearlessness and intelligent mind. To me, Jaylen Brown exemplifies these intangible characteristics more than anyone else in the league.
Confidence? As a second-year player, Brown vowed to make LeBron pay on defence in the 2018 East Finals. He would go on to lead Boston with 19.7 points per game (mostly on Kyle Korver) in the series. Fearlessness? Clearly hobbled, the 21-year-old played through a hamstring injury to spark a comeback victory over the 76ers in Game 2 of the East Semis. Intelligence? Kobe has used his to embark on a number of off-the-court endeavours. Brown? He's hosted a tech summit at All-Star Weekend, taught himself Spanish and how to play the piano, and has found time to speak at Harvard. All before his 22nd birthday. This is the stuff of legends - on and off the floor.
Micah Adams ( @MicahAdams13 ): He's not a shooting guard and he's obviously nowhere near the defender but Kyrie Irving is the player who most reminds me of Kobe. More important than the actual on-court similarities are the mythical ethos and overall approach. I'm not sure anyone has embraced the Mamba Mentality quite like Irving while simultaneously tapping into the passions of NBA fans who are all over the map debating just where he stands among the game's best players. Like Bryant, Irving too grew tired of sharing the spotlight with a more established, larger-than-life star.
James McKern ( @jLmcKern ): I'm going with Devin Booker. The Suns prized shooting guard has shown he can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor, much like Kobe did throughout his career. He isn't on the same level as Kobe defensively, but in only his third season and with the Suns building for the future, Booker is going to become a genuine star. Comparing the numbers after their third seasons and Booker has the edge on Kobe: Booker averaged 24.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game compared to Kobe's 19.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
Carlan Gay ( @TheCarlanGay ): DeMar DeRozan is probably the most Kobe-like in terms of game, but I'm going to go with Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has the Mamba Mentality down to a tee. There are no friends in opposing jerseys once Russ steps on the court, it's all business. He remains unapologetically himself no matter how much criticism there is for him to change his game. Westbrook will always be Westbrook and if one day he finally wins that elusive NBA championship he would've done it his way, much like Kobe.