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Los Angeles Lakers

Heat Check: Who is the next Kobe Bryant?

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Devin Booker (NBA Getty Images)

In honour of Kobe Bryant's 41st birthday on Friday, we're bringing back some of our stories from last year's Kobe Week, in which we celebrated his finest moments, pondered the unanswerable questions and dove 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.

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 fourth season and with the Suns building for the future, Booker is going to become a genuine star.

Compare the numbers after their fourth seasons and Booker even has the edge on Kobe: Booker averaged 26.6 points, 6.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game compared to Kobe's 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.9 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.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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