Kobe Bryant is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest scorers of all time. He retired at 3rd place on the all-time regular season scoring list (he's now 4th) with 33641 points. Kobe averaged 35.6 points per game during a season when the average team scored only 97.0 points per game, compared to over 110 points per game these past 2 seasons.
One of the greatest achievements of Kobe Bryant was the fact that he kept adding skills to his scoring repertoire despite already having reached the pinnacle of the sport. From the 2000-01 season onwards, Kobe Bryant was universally acknowledged as the best perimeter player in the NBA, but that never stopped his drive for improvement.
The Mamba took something from every all-time great whom he adored. He used MJ's shoulder fakes from the post, added Hakeem's Dream Shake and plied George Gervin's finger roll. He had a hook shot, a reliable runner, an excellent floater and could even shoot one-handed with his off hand. Kobe Bryant even added Dirk's signature one-legged fadeaway to his game late in his career.
Many current and former players regard him as 1B to Michael Jordan's 1A as the greatest of all time. Copying him was an obsession for all kids in the 2000s. As most of the current generation of NBA players grew up as Kobe fans, it's only natural that some elite players across the league have mimicked his offensive moves.
Here's a look at the 5 players in the NBA today whose game is most reminiscent of the self-titled Black Mamba:
5 Players whose game is like Kobe Bryant's
#1 Jayson Tatum
One of the biggest emerging talents in the NBA today, Jayson Tatum has been a revelation in the 2019-20 season. He increased his scoring average and shooting percentages by a multitude during the regular season, and through 3 games of the playoffs, has carried on in the same vein.
Tatum's fadeaway jumpers are eerily reminiscent of Kobe Bryant. The 21-year-old worked out with Kobe Bryant in the summer of 2018, when he received some really invaluable tips that have improved his basics at post play and in the mid-range.
Look at this clip and judge for yourself how much his game is a reminder of the Mamba Mentality:
#2 Khris Middleton
The Milwaukee Bucks guard/forward stands at 6'7" and is one of the most measured, deliberate offensive players in the NBA today. Middleton finished the season with shooting splits of almost 50/40/90 while averaging 21.2 points per game. If he'd made 4 more field goals on the same number of attempts, he'd be joining the elite company of Larry Bird, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry in the record books.
Middleton's offensive game is a joy to watch. He never seems to be in a hurry and always seems to have a working counter-move to the defender's play. There's no wasted motion in his jumpshot and he can create separation from almost any situation.
A lot of Kobe Bryant in that move, isn't there?
#3 DeMar DeRozan
The former Toronto Raptors star has been one of the most consistent performers at the shooting guard position for several seasons now. His mid-range game is a real throwback to the 90s and early 2000s, when teams would need scorers like him to go off in order to win.
DeMar DeRozan is a self-admitted Kobe fan. His jumpshots from the elbow region, turnaround fadeaways from the high and mid-post and his ability to fake and go up and under from the low post are all skills acquired from watching tape of Kobe Bryant. There's little in his offensive repertoire that can't immediately be traced back to the Black Mamba.
#4 Kawhi Leonard
The reigning Finals MVP came into the NBA as a defensive specialist, but improved his scoring output every year for the first 6 seasons of his career. Since 2015-16, Kawhi has been a mean offensive force, able to score from all 3 ranges reliably.
Kawhi Leonard first worked out with Kobe Bryant in the summer of 2015, and there was then a visible change in his scoring techniques from the subsequent season. His turnaround jumper, post play, handles and ability to create separation and get off a seemingly impossible shot are quite the Kobe Bryant experience.
One of the most feared scorers in the NBA today, there's no doubt that Kawhi Leonard has been inspired by the Black Mamba on the offensive end.
#5 Kyrie Irving
The Brooklyn Nets point guard has not just embraced the Mamba Mentality, he has been a proponent of some of Kobe Bryant's best moves ever since he first came into the league in the 2011-12 season. Irving has got the greatest handles in NBA history according to the great Allen Iverson himself, and he's been a 3-level scorer since his rookie year.
Irving's major resemblances to Kobe Bryant lie, like the other players on the list, in his able to make fadeaway jumpers in the same manner. Irving is also a capable post player, although as a point guard he gets few post-ups these days. There's precious little anyone can do when faced with him carrying a full head of steam.
Published 22 Aug 2020, 23:44 IST