Kobe’s Legacy: 5 most deadly assassins after Bryant

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Kobe Bryant recently made the statement that he hasn’t had anyone he could consider a true rival throughout his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Although there are many players who have played in the NBA during Bryant’s tenure who should feel slighted by his remark (as well as a few current players), Bryant has a point.

Kobe even mentioned guys that he once considered as rivals like Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter but as he pointed out, those guys didn’t play at a high enough level for a long enough time to be considered on his level.

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Does it sound like Bryant is being arrogant or cocky? Yeah and why shouldn’t he be? No player since Michael Jordan has been able to reel off the amount of accomplishments that he has. No other player since Jordan has put up as many points, had as many big performances or won as many championships (not just been on winning teams like a Robert Horry for example) as the Black Mamba.

And there definitely is no one who came into the league around the time Bryant was drafted who is still playing at the level he is. Bryant has that thing that many of the greats had: an undeniable will to win.

And that desire to win gives him his edge; it keeps him on top of his game. It gives him that killer instinct that we see from very few players who play the game today.

Bryant is always in attack mode during a game and always wants to pit his skills against the league’s best players. Plus, you’ll never see Bryant shy away from taking the final shot.

This is where LeBron James should feel slighted because when people talk about crunch time moments they laud Bryant’s successes and highlight James’ failures. Sure Bryant gets a little more credit for being a closer than he deserves sometimes but hey that happens when you have five rings.

But with Kobe on the tail end of his career, who are the five most deadly assassins waiting in the wings to take his place? And know that I’m not talking about guys who are also on the tail end of their careers like Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki we’re looking at the next generation. So without further ado we start with….

5. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves haven’t had many meaningful games during Love’s tenure there (if any) but on the rare occasion that he has had the opportunity Love has nailed some clutch shots. The incident where he stepped on Luis Scola shows he has a nasty edge to him. That will serve him well as the Timberwolves continue to improve.

4. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

Paul has had more television exposure as a member of the Clippers and fans have gotten to see how much of a gamer he is. People around the league already knew that the diminutive guard had a nasty streak to him but now that he is in a situation where he has a legitimate shot at a title, expect to see it even more as he barks out orders to his teammates and looks to take over games in the clutch.

3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

Although statistics say he has been the most accurate guy in clutch situations since entering the league back in 2003, you never get a sense of that killer instinct that you seek from a guy with his skills. Maybe he’ll get more credit when he does it on a bigger stage like say the NBA Finals?

2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Durant has hit some big shots but the thing that should scare the people is that Durant is only going to get better. He can shoot from anywhere and seems to have ice water in his veins when the game is on the line. Now if only he can get his ball-hogging point guard to give up the ball during those clutch moments then we can witness how truly great Durant is.

1 Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

Rose is in my estimation the closest to Bryant in terms of playing with an edge. He is clutch in the critical moments of games but he doesn’t just regulate his heroics to clutch situations. Whenever he sees his team slumping he picks up his game whether it’s the first quarter or overtime. He can get his shot off anytime he wants and puts tremendous pressure on himself to win. If the Bulls can get him more help then he may chase Bryant and Jordan’s ring count.

Bryant truly may not have a peer that he can look to as a rival but he has set a standard that these five guys can follow. With Bryant clearly winning the “next Jordan” sweepstakes, let’s see which of these guys evolves into the “Mamba II.”


Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Featured Journalist for The Penalty Flag and Managing Editor for Shatter The Backboard. He can be contacted at RHall@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.


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