It would not be wrong to say that LeBron James has been the face of the NBA for the last decade. During this period, there have been many superstars, such as Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, who have cemented their legacy but have not established themselves as the face of the league.
Having said that, there is no doubt that the current generation has exceptional talent, some of whom may just be the next face of the NBA.
5 players who are pushing to become the face of the NBA
5. LaMelo Ball
Stat line: 15.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 6.1 APG
LaMelo Ball was the 3rd overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and was selected by the Charlotte Hornets. He started his freshman season at Chino Hills High School in California, where he won a state championship and achieved national success.
In a game against the New Orleans Pelicans this season, LaMelo helped the Hornets rally from an 18-point deficit while exhibiting impressive leadership qualities. He also became the youngest player to record a triple-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists.
The 19-year-old registered his career-high score (34 points) against the Utah Jazz this season. In the process, he became the youngest player in franchise history to record a 30-point game.
4. Jayson Tatum
Stat line: 25.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 4.4 APG
Jayson Tatum was selected by the Boston Celtics as the 3rd overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
The 23-year-old has had thirty-two 30+ point games and five 40+ point games in his career so far.
In the 2017-18 playoffs, which was also his rookie season, Tatum scored a career-high 28 points in the semi-final against the Philadelphia 76ers, becoming the first rookie to score 25+ points in a playoff game since Larry Bird.
The 2x All-star signed a five-year extension worth $195 million with the Celtics in 2020.
3. Donovan Mitchell
Stat line: 26.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 5.2 APG
The 13th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Donovan Mitchell is a 2x All-Star and an NBA slam dunk contest champion.
Donovan was the first rookie guard since Allen Iverson (1996-97) to have two 40+ point games. He also set a record for most 3-pointers in a rookie season (186). In his playoff debut, he averaged 24.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 4.2 APG, which earned him a place in the All-NBA Rookie first team.
During the 2020 off-season, Donovan Mitchell signed a five-year max extension with the Utah Jazz worth up to $195 million.
2. Zion Williamson
Stat line: 26.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 3.6 APG
Zion Williamson was the 1st overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans.
The 20-year-old made his debut in the 2021 NBA-All Star this year. In the 78 games he has played so far, he has averaged 25.5 PPG with an exceptional FG% of 60.8. He also had twenty-one games with 30+ points.
His ability to dominate in the paint and his monster dunks are something the league hasn't seen since Shaquille O'Neal.
Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant had this to say about Zion Williamson on his podcast:
“He’s a once-in-a generation-athlete. I’ve never seen somebody like that before."
Zion Williamson recently signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Jordan Brand. Sources say it is a seven-year $75 million deal, making it the biggest annual NBA rookie deal in history.
Stat line: 28.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 8.7 APG
Luka Doncic was the 3rd pick in the 2018 NBA draft. He was selected by the Atlanta Hawks but was later sent to the Dallas Mavericks in a deal for Trae Young and a future first-round pick.
The 22-year-old has already had 9 games with 40+ points and a mind-boggling 34 triple-doubles.
Doncic made his playoff debut in 2019 against the LA Clippers, though the Dallas Mavericks lost in six games. He still put up a show with 31.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 8.7 APG.
Some of his other achievements include an All-NBA first-team selection and a 2018 Rookie of the Year award.