Who’s Got Next?

Flash back with me – you have a piece of balled-up paper in your hand and a trash can in the corner. “FIVE!” You have your back slightly turned to the trash can with both hands on the “ball”. “FOUR!” You start to lean backwards to get a feel for the defender. “THREE!” You turn your head to the side and give your defender that cocky smirk, letting them know that this is your shot and that there will be no mercy. Sound familiar yet? “TWO!” You turn the other way, drop your back leg, and rotate your shoulders quickly. At this point, both you and your defender know that they had made a mistake and that you have the upper hand. “ONE!” You quickly turn back around and you see that the defender has been completely sold by the fake. You start to rise-up and fade away. As the shot is about to be released, you see the dismantled defender struggling to block your shot. You give a soft smile as the ball leaves your fingertips. The imaginary buzzer goes off and the shot is good. To seal the deal, you yell out, “Kobe!”.

An era filled with great superstars, some of whom earning the title of being some of the greatest players ever, is approaching an end. We had the opportunity to watch greats like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Tim Duncan and many others play during arguably the most exciting years of basketball, during a time when the league’s style was transitioning from “old school” to a “more modern” style of play. Though this era and every other era of NBA history was jam-packed with its own unique greats, every era of basketball is truly remembered because of a select few. The 50s, 60s and 70s were dominated by big men. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Elvin Hayes and Oscar Robertson truly classified this era and left a legacy. The 80s and 90s shifted from a big man presence to a brute style of play where only the most physical and skilled players excelled. Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Dominique Wilkins, and later, Shaquille O’Neal, are perfect examples of the players that represented this era of basketball. The late 90s and 2000s, the era that is becoming obsolete, consists of some of the greatest basketball players to ever live–players that were known for their supreme athleticism and talent with a basketball. Players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have and continue to leave their mark on the league. These two are examples of players that are, and forever will be, icons for their generation of basketball and for the league’s evolution in the aggregate.

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The style of basketball is forever evolving. As time progresses, only a select few are remembered as representatives of their time and era. Though every section of NBA history is filled with phenomenal players, most of their names are lost with time. It takes a truly remarkable player to survive the test of time. Only an extremely small population of players from each era are able to keep their name alive, let alone be able to be known as a king of their era. A player like Moses Malone dominated his respective time, but is forgotten in today’s ramblings of the NBA’s all-time greats, for instance.

Today, basketball continues to evolve. It is becoming more about flashiness and swagger than it is about the will to win. Positions are also becoming more and more ambiguous as we now see seven-foot players with floor-spacing capabilities. As we start to leave the fleeting era of the conglomerate formed by Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and LeBron James, we enter a new and young era filled with fringe players such as Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as exciting backcourt players like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. We anxiously wait to see who will rise above the rest of the league, represent their era, and be the first player thought of when this new era becomes an old one. We are still waiting for a new king to take the crown from LeBron James.

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It is extremely difficult to look at a player at around 18 years of age and automatically know that they are destined to be an NBA legend. There have only been a few players in history to have lived up to the hype at a young age to go on and become a dominant player in the NBA. There have been a multitude of number one draft picks that have ended up being busts, and conversely, there have been players taken later in the draft that have outdone the players drafted before them. Regardless, this new era of basketball will be remembered for its new take on the game and its completely different style of play, and therefore, the icons that will be remembered from this era will have to match these attributes. Some of the best players in the league today have the exact qualities discussed from this era.

Stephen Curry: an exciting shooter who leaves the crowd in awe from the confidence he displays and the shots that he pulls off.

Russell Westbrook: An athletic freak of nature who is having seasons statistically superior to any other season ever recorded.

Kevin Durant: The seemingly unguardable, most unconventionally built one through five player in the league today.

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These players and many others have the potential of becoming the few that represent this new era of basketball. Even the 2017 draft class has shown the potential to be on the same stage. Dennis Smith Jr. is an extremely athletic and exciting point guard with immense potential. Jayson Tatum is one of those unconventional players that can play any position on the floor and can be the most talented player in this draft class, as shown by his summer league play. Not to mention the top two picks in the draft, who every NBA fan has high hopes for. As for last year, Brandon Ingram, the second overall pick, is an extremely talented young player with some of the most potential to progress out of the whole draft class. And as for 2015, Karl Anthony-Towns is another example of a young player with surreal talent and potential, with his team currently poised to make a run at the NBA championship. He is a seven foot, true center that can spread the floor unlike any other big man in the league. The list can go on and on, but the point of the matter is that this new generation has already been classified as players indicative of an unconventional, new style of basketball. An infinite amount of predictions can be made about who will be the next set of names on the list, but the reality is that this era of basketball is still too young to tell and time will be the determining factor of the outcome. The next generation of fans who get the privilege of admiring, aspiring and enjoying this upcoming era of basketball will be the ones who can truly and sincerely distinguish the greatest players in the era that they will grow up watching and loving. We’ve all had our chance of being Kobe with five seconds left on the clock, a trash can in the corner and a paper ball in hand. The true progression and evolution of NBA history, along with the reveal of this upcoming era’s icons will evidently be displayed and recognized when there’s five seconds on the shot clock, a trash can in the corner, and paper ball in the hand. “FIVE!”…

“FOUR!”…

“THREE!”…

“TWO!”…

“ONE!”…

…and whose name will be yelled?

One thought on “Who’s Got Next?”

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