As his NBA career was winding down, many called Kobe Bryant the last of a dying breed. His competitiveness and unmatched desire to win was something that very few players in the history of the league had, and something that seemed to be disappearing in today’s NBA.
One player who does seem to have that fire that Kobe possessed is Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, one of the most fierce players in the league.
Westbrook’s demeanor is something that did not go unnoticed by Kobe, and in an interview with Jim Rome of CBS Sports, Kobe singled out Westbrook as the player who reminds him most of himself:
“When I turn on the TV and I watch players play, the player that plays with the same kind of emotion and grit and competitive intensity is Russell [Westbrook],” Bryant said of the All-Star guard. “Russell is going hard. Doesn’t matter who he is playing against, doesn’t matter what the odds are, he’s going, that’s a guy, he is going 110 percent every single time.”
Kobe, however, doesn’t subscribe to the notion that there aren’t more players like him in the league today noting that his mindset about basketball wasn’t always revered:
“When I was young and playing, that wasn’t the perception. The perception was that I was headstrong, obsessive about the game of basketball, but as time has gone on and people have been able to see how obsessive I’ve been about winning, then that’s kind of become, they’ve kind of come to know me as that, right. So there are certain young players out there, I’m sure, that have that mentality, but over time we will be able to see who is who.”
In due time there will surely be some players who rise to the top of the league with the killer instinct that made Kobe such a legend. Westbrook is one-of-a-kind with his intensity, and that is the main reason why many expect him to have the best year of his career now that Kevin Durant has gone to Golden State.
The question for the Lakers is which, if any, of their young players, will develop that same desire that Kobe had. Whether it is D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, or anyone else, the Lakers will surely be hoping to see that come out very soon.