The Standard: How the NBA’s young stars measure up to Kobe

08.23.10 8 years ago 49 Comments

Today is the Kobe Bryant‘s 32nd birthday. Growing old? Not quite.

At 32, Bryant is arguably the NBA’s best player, and according to some, not far from MJ on the list of greatest ever. The 14-year veteran has been a 12-time All-Star, 10-time All-Defensive Team selection, 12-time All-NBA selection, has earned five NBA championship rings, one Olympic gold medal, one league MVP, two scoring titles, one slam dunk title, is the L.A. Lakers’ all-time leading scorer, and recorded the League’s second-highest scoring single game when he dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors in January 2006. This adds up to the best career of any current player in the league.

The scary part about all of this is that Kobe’s still adding on to that list. At 32 years young, it seems as if Bryant is fueled to win now more than ever. His desire to patent his legacy as one of the greatest to ever hit the hardwood is growing each day. As we reflect on Bryant’s career, we predict where some of the NBA’s younger superstars will be at the 32-year mark.

Chris Paul is the leader of the new school of NBA point guards. Ever since his rookie year in ’05, there has been little argument that CP3 is the best PG in the league, even with back-to-back MVP Steve Nash still in Phoenix.

At 25 years old, Paul has achieved some impressive feats. He has been selected to the All-NBA team and All-Defensive Team twice so far and has broken a few records. Paul holds the record for most consecutive games with a steal (108), and tied Jordan’s single-season mark for most games with a steal (80). He also has led the NBA in assist two times. Paul could have added onto that list recently had he not been hampered by injury. He can’t afford to get hurt if he wants to continue to hold the title of best PG. There is too much competition, from Deron Williams to Derrick Rose to Brandon Jennings.

If Paul wants to be known as one of the best PG’s of all time, he is going to need to continue his dominance as well as bringing some new help to New Orleans. In order to be the best you have to beat the best, so Paul will have to lead the Hornets — assuming he doesn’t get traded soon — past the likes of other big names in the Western Conference such as Bryant, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony (for now), and frankly, I just don’t see that happening in the upcoming years. By the time he hits age 32, Paul might be revoked of his best-PG title by the likes of D-Rose, but will still be viewed as one of the best point guards in the League.

Carmelo Anthony has the NBA on its heels anticipating his decision whether to stay with the Nuggets or join a new franchise. This decision could play a major role in Carmelo’s chances of improving his legacy or damaging it.

Carmelo has been a four-time All-NBA selection, and a three-time All-Star. It seems as if he is just one step away from achieving greatness, but always falls short. ‘Melo is currently 26 years old and is getting better and better. Some would even say ‘Melo is the best/most complete offensive player in the League because he makes it look so easy and can score from anywhere.

If he chooses to leave the Nuggets and join forces with other superstars on another team, I think he would be doing himself a disservice, especially if he goes East. If he stays in Denver and lets the franchise rebuild around him, come age 32, they could be the best team in the Western Conference. The Laker run is only going to last so long, and after Kobe falls off, the West is up for grabs. ‘Melo could be at the forefront of that opportunity if he stays in Denver. As far as his game goes, he’s only going to get better in the upcoming years.

Kevin Durant is the future. It’s almost scary to see how good he’s becoming and entering his fourth NBA season, he has already won the Rookie of the Year, and last season became the youngest scoring champion ever. Durant stands 6-10 and plays with incredible guard skills. There is nobody that he can’t shoot over, so he creates his own shots with ease. He scoring ability is raw, and he’s incredibly versatile. Durant is truly a unique player and in his own class simply because he has quickness, and athleticism which is unmatched against any other competitor his height.

At 21 years old, Durant is the chosen one to lead Team USA at the World Championship this summer, which speaks volumes about his game, work ethic and maturity. Last year Durant led the Thunder to the playoffs and gave the Lakers their most difficult series. Even before LeBron, Wade, Bosh and the Heat, or ‘Melo and the Nuggets, I think Durant and the Thunder will be the team that finally knocks Kobe off of his high horse in the postseason. By the time he hits 32, Durant will be leading the Thunder into the NBA Finals for several years running, competing for ‘chips against the Heat dynasty, and eventually he will knock them off their high horse as well.

At 28 years old, D-Wade is in his 7th year in the League. So far he’s been a six-time All-Star, earned one championship ring, one Finals MVP, one scoring title, and has been named All-NBA five times and the All-Defensive Team three times.

To catch Kobe, he would need to win a ring every year for the next four years, which is a definite possibility. Armed with new firepower, the sky is the limit for the South Beach super-friends (Wade, LeBron and Bosh). Accompanied by two new superstars — one of them being King James — it may be hard for Wade to increase his numbers individually seeing as how he won’t have to do it all for the team anymore, or dominate the ball as much with King James on the court. In my opinion, Wade will win more team achievements as opposed to adding on to his individual accolades in upcoming years.

Wade’s game is based around his athleticism, which can tend to diminish with age (in most cases). So if Wade wants to continue being an individual force, he’s going to have to learn that middle-age fade away. Wade will continue to be a perennial All-Star and will be winning championships in the near future, so come age 32, I don’t think Wade will be the least bit disappointed. Plus he’ll most likely always have one more ring than LeBron.

This summer LeBron James made the quickest transition from most-loved athlete to most-hated athlete I’ve ever seen, shocking the world with his decision. It is easy to see that LeBron is the most high profile player in the League and arguably the best talent that the NBA has ever seen already.

At age 25, Bron’s list of achievements are measly compared to what it has the potential to be. So far, he’s been the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, two-time league MVP, six-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA, one-time scoring champion, and two-time All-Defensive. Seven years from now, when LeBron is 32 years old, that list will be much longer.

LeBron shows no signs of slowing down until he gets what he wants (championships). He has gotten better every year and it has come to the point now where there is no telling how good he could actually get. Individual accolades are not LeBron’s focus, but that won’t stop him from adding onto the list of individual achievements. It’s in Miami’s best interest to make LeBron the focal point of the team, since he is the best distributor and has the ability to make everyone better. If Miami succeeds and exceeds expectations, LeBron will receive most of the praise, since he will be dominating the ball more so than the other players.

All the hate Bron has been receiving as of late is only fuel to his fire, he claims, and inspiring him to take his game to a whole new level. At 32 years old, LeBron will re-define what the term “best player” really means. If there is anyone in the League that could average a triple-double, it’s LeBron, especially with Wade and Bosh as his supporting cast. People forget that Kobe himself once made the transition from most-loved to most-hated, and I think Bron will make people forget all about it just like Kobe did. Come age 32, Bron will be steps short of becoming the best to ever play the game of basketball.

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