NBA Warmup: 4 Players Fighting To Be The Next “Kobe!”

It’s not what you think.

Let me set the record straight: there obviously isn’t going to be another Kobe Bryant in the NBA, ever. His talent is irreplaceable. As is his unmatched competitiveness. And, his work ethic and training regimen? It defies Father Time.

He’s The Mamba.

In a lot of ways, his success can be quantified or calculated both on and off of the court. On the court, he has five rings, two finals MVP awards, an NBA MVP award in 2008, 18 consecutive all-star appearances, two gold medals for Team USA, and other accolades I’m deliberately not saying because it would just waste your time. Off of the court, between multimillion dollar Nike shoe deals, his newly founded venture capital firm, and many other endorsements, he followed suit of his basketball idol — Michael Jordan — in establishing a dominant personal brand and honing in on his business acumen.

But, some successes, if not the best successes, just… are. They can’t be quantified, calculated, explained, or planned. In the case of Kobe “Bean” Bryant, it is the success and honor of being the go-to exclaimed name after draining jumpers of garbage into a garbage can.

This is no joke. Imagine being the sole name that people opt to say when throwing trash away. It’s a cultural phenomenon. I’m surprised that Kobe hasn’t capitalized on an endorsement with Waste Management yet, to be honest.

Anyways, now that he has retired and is no longer active, it is imperative that our greater NBA fan community finds our next “Kobe!”. Fortunately, there’s an official, data-backed, legitimate way to go about finding it that I’ve developed for about 15 minutes time in my own head.

There are five criteria that determine who is suitable for such an honor:

Flow off the tongue coolness

“Kobe” is just undeniably entertaining to say, scream, mumble, whisper, bark, etc. Perhaps, even more entertaining than “Francisco”. It’s punchy, yet smooth. Sharp, yet lazy. It has two syllables that carry so much more historical weight to them than most two syllable words. Maybe this is a little bit over-the-top. Speaking of historical weight, though…

Individual dominance

You wouldn’t risk missing the trashcan, and having to walk over to your missed shoulder shimmy fadeaway jumper from 10 feet out to grab a rebound after screaming “Scalabrine!”.

You wouldn’t.

Part of the allure of shouting “Kobe!” is because, for that brief moment of time during the work day or school day, you get to escape. Dream big. Pretend like you’re a god damn Hall of Fame NBA shooting guard that will go down in history. Does anyone really want to be Raymond Felton? No. Success matters. And so does not vicariously living through an inexcusably fat NBA player for one and a half seconds.

The emphasis on “individual” is also key, here. Kobe was particularly an exceptional player in isolation, more often than not dominating one-on-one situations while on the floor. Likewise, you’re gonna wanna feel like you’re giving the business to the trash can, no problem.

Swag

Kobe’s image is singular. He’s the beloved asshole with ice cold veins that relishes slicing you in the throat, metaphorically, on the court. He doesn’t just beat opponents. He ends them. Meanwhile, he’s also as smooth as can be. He’s cultured, having spent his early childhood years in Italy before moving into the United States. He is trilingual; capable of speaking English, Spanish and Italian fluently. Even in interviews, he is always surprisingly well-spoken, despite those that knock him for not having a college degree. He’s well-rehearsed to the point that it makes you reconsider whether you think college was even worth it. He’s a public figure, a man of the people, that still feels like a larger than life mystery. We know him, but do we know him?

His “Kobe!” replacement needs to be cool.

Championship success

This can’t be overlooked. This obviously isn’t the same thing as individual dominance. Maybe they’re cousins or whatever, but being a champion absolutely matters if you want the general public screaming your name when they “accidentally” toss paper into the non-recyclable bin.

They must be active

Together, we’re establishing the next era of trash-shot name exclaiming. It’s gotta be a new guy.


Without further ado, here are the nominees:

Russell ‘Russ’ Westbrook

One can make the argument in a variety of ways that Russell Westbrook is Kobe reincarnate. He’s a one man wrecking machine that controls the entire offense when he’s on the floor. He’s viciously athletic, angrily throwing down on opponents at will with that bullish snarl of his. And, his sense of style is… cool?

Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the championship success — actually, any championship success to earn the exclamation of his name. Nor, does he have the immediate name recognition or name flow than that of Kobe. Plus, his individual dominance comes in the form of his jaw-dropping dunks and bursts of speed. Just about everybody can dunk crumpled meeting memos.

Verdict: No

Karl-Anthony ‘KAT’ Towns

In five years he may be the single best player in the league on a team that has a makeup to be title contenders in about four years — right after the Warriors, Spurs and Thunder begin to fall from the Western Conference throne. He plays like a 7' guard that gives opposing big-men the sauce out on the perimeter with his shifty footwork and silky jumper.

But, it’s not quite his time yet for the “Kobe!” honor.

‘Towns’, ‘Karl’, or even ‘KAT’ don’t carry enough cultural oomph to them to earn immediate recognition in a public setting. And, his personality doesn’t chisel through others’ in the league, let alone on a larger macro-level beyond basketball. Karl-Anthony Towns may have his time one day — but it’s definitely not right now.

Verdict: No, but revisit in five years

LeBron ‘King’ James

All of the makings for being the next “Kobe!” are there.

Championship success? Successes. Three of them. One of which revitalized an entire city. And, he has two olympic golds with Team USA.

Individual success? How do four MVP awards, three Finals MVP awards, 12 NBA All Star appearances and 10 All-NBA First Team appearances sound? That’s not even all of it. Moving on.

Flow? This kid gets it.

Swag? He’s a king. How much better can it get after being heralded as royalty?

Unfortunately, LeBron’s basketball intelligence, much like in real life NBA basketball pre-2011 when he wouldn’t ‘selfishly’ takeover games, gets the best of him. Part of his dominance comes in the form of bringing the best out of teammates by occasionally taking the backseat and empowering them to make plays. LeBron sacrifices almost guaranteed 30+ PPG career averages in favor of a cool 27/7/7 career stat line. Whereas, Kobe essentially said “screw it” and morphed into the pseudo psycho-killer athlete that just kept shooting. That’s the bravado we knew and loved (or hated). And, that’s the bravado that helped make “Kobe!” the cultural staple that it is.

In the instance of LeBron, teamwork is his downfall… And, so is his inconsistent J.

Verdict: No

Stephen ‘Steph’ Curry

He’s cool, calm, collected, and revolutionizing the game from beyond the arc. In terms of the credentials needed to suffice as the replacement for “Kobe!”, they’re all there, too.

He’s an MVP two times over, and an NBA champion. He’s responsible for plenty of clutch moments, and equally responsible for the subsequent shimmy-shake dance moves after them. He’s both ‘relationship goals’ and the father of the Riley Curry.

And, of course, the name.

Shouting “Steph!” or “Curry!” upon shooting trash into a trashcan will achieve the most desired results, relative to it being completely socially acceptable to shout “Kobe!” when doing the same. “Steph” and “Curry” are two legitimate names that are both unique enough and recognizable enough to have it not be weird in the minds of others around you when you shoot your shot. Circumstantially, if any of these people are eating curry around you, or are coincidentally named Steph (guy or girl), you also have an out to play off what you’ve just done with your rubbish.

The fact that his name is versatile enough to say either his first or last, which are both punchy names that flow off of the tongue, is the game-changer.

Verdict: Yes


Honorable Mentions

  • Damian ‘Dame’ Lillard: dominant, but the name is too awkward. Lillard sounds gross, and ‘Dame’ can be misunderstood for ‘Damn’. Too risky.
  • Manu Ginobli: too old, but his name is far and away the coolest sounding. He also isn’t necessarily as well-known as the other nominees, despite his overwhelming team successes.
  • Klay Thompson: he’s simply too overshadowed by Steph.

Agree? Disagree? Present your case for your “Kobe!” in the comments section. Or, criticize me for going unnecessarily in-depth about something so trivial. I’ll totally understand.