The year is 1996. The year’s draft class looks exceptionally promising with players such as Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Jermaine O’Neal, among others. Amongst all those drafted, the one who has had the biggest impact on the NBA and the sports world in general was the 13th overall draft pick, a young man straight out of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia named Kobe Bean Bryant.
For the next 20 years, he held audiences captive and had one of the greatest careers in NBA history. He has won three gold medals with the USA basketball team, is a five-time NBA champion, one time NBA MVP, two time finals MVP and was the league’s leading scorer in the 2006 and 2007 NBA seasons.
The reverse dunks in his younger days, his amazing fadeaway post shots, the clutch factor in the most high-intensity moments and the leadership of all those championship Lakers teams made him a player that you respected. Even if you were one of the many who hated him, Kobe was a game-changer, a once in a generation player.
This doesn’t mean that the Black Mamba has avoided controversy. From his power struggle and feud with Shaq, to his sexual assault/adultery charge in 2003, to frequent accusations that he is selfish and egotistical, there have been knocks on his legend status. Despite this, he’s obviously been enormously successful and he will go down in NBA history as one of the top players of all time. Who do you think of when you shoot a paper ball into a trash can? No one says Timmy, or KD or even Jordan. It’s Kobe, every time. Any other name would just be uncivilized.
The NBA will go on without Kobe, moving into a new era. Skilled shooting guards like Kobe, Wade, Carter and T-Mac would still be great in this era, but their strong inside game would be less effective than in their heydays. Curry, KD, Harden, PG13, Klay Thompson and others with “inside the gym” range are gonna be lighting it up for years to come. I believe this will be followed up by big men dominating once again: Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Kristaps Porzingis being the best young big men. The Warriors look poised to win championships for years but player movement of superstars like KD, Harden and Westbrook will have a huge impact on what happens in the NBA.