This offseason saw the NBA lose three of the greatest players of all-time as Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett all retired. With such legendary players gone and others such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade more than 10 years into their careers, many are looking towards players such as Anthony Davis, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and Kawhi Leonard as the next faces of the league.
Leonard’s name hasn’t always been brought up with the others, but his play so far this season will ensure that will be from here on out. After dropping 35 points and five steals in the Spurs season-opening blowout win over the Golden State Warriors, Leonard followed it up with 30 points, five assists, and another five steals against the Sacramento Kings.
Following the game, Cousins was in awe of Leonard’s performance, even going so far as to say he saw flashes of Kobe in the sixth-year star via Sean Cunningham of ABC 10 in Sacramento:
“That dude’s good man […] He’s good, he’s really good […] I mean he was hitting shots over two guys. I heard he was working with Kobe and, it was some flashes of Kobe. He was really good.”
After a Lakers game against the Spurs last year, Kobe mentioned that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich asked him to work with and mentor Leonard this offseason. The one worry about Leonard was whether or not he had the skills and killer instinct to take over games offensively. If Kobe has helped Leonard with that, the rest of the league is in for a rude awakening.
Even though Kobe has been retired, he continues to leave his mark on the NBA and stays in contact with a number of players. D’Angelo Russell mentioned that he spoke with Kobe before the Lakers season opener and that Kobe told him he looks ready to lead the team.
Kobe will go down as one of the greatest players of all-time and someone who many players will try to emulate. Cousins already notices a difference in Leonard, and that could be the difference in Leonard indeed becoming a superstar in this league.