Kobe Bryant’s first 8 years in the Association were marked by his role as the Co-Star of a Hollywood Dynasty, a Sexual Assault Case that almost derailed his career, and then a bitter divorce from Shaquille O’Neal. Amidst of all the highs and lows, the basketball world waited impatiently to see what KB8 could do on his own. The rest, as they say, is history; Kobe would go on to cement himself as the best basketball player since Michael Jordan.
Kobe’s transformation from Robin to Batman was quite simply remarkable. Russell Westbrook started off as Robin, but the last few seasons it’s been hard to determine who was Batman between Russ and KD. Both Westbrook and Kobe have taken heat for possessing a confidence that most people can never comprehend. In my opinion they should be saluted. Just think about how hard it must be to be told to refrain yourself and your game because of another teammate, yet knowing that you may be just as great if not greater, than your teammate. I personally don’t think many of us could perform quite like Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant in their first 8 years.
Russell Westbrook's 1st 8 NBA seasons look a lot like Kobe's (aside from Bryant's 3 rings, of course): pic.twitter.com/In3igb1vXb
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 12, 2016
No one was prepared for the bombshell Kevin Durant dropped on us on Independence Day. KD couldn’t have picked a better day to announce his decision. KD and Westbrook, attached at the hip for better or worse for 8 years, are finally free of each other. Although KD’s immediate future seems to be rather clear, Russell Westbrook’s immediate and longterm futures are both up in the air. What I do know though, Westbrook is about to go BANANAS on the rest of the association, much like Kobe Bryant did following Shaq’s trade to Miami.
There have already been numerous parallels between Russ and Bean, they both play(ed) with an aggression unmatched by anyone at any position in the association. When critics questioned Kobe’s game and his arrogant defiance towards authority, he responded by taking his game to an unreal level. When these same critics have questioned Russell Westbrook’s drive and his defiance in the face of having Kevin Durant at his disposal, he’s responded by becoming the most unstoppable force in the NBA. A triple-double threat on a nightly basis whose scowl sends fear throughout many a helpless defender.
Kobe’s recent retirement has closed the door on one of the greatest careers ever. Fans of The Mamba will certainly relive his countless memories through millions of YouTube channels, which is absolutely fair enough. However, Russell Westbrook will certainly carry the mantle well into the future.
Although the Kevin Durant + Russell Westbrook duo didn’t yield the amount of success that Kobe and Shaq enjoyed, they were constantly a topic of conversation much like their Los Angeles Predecessors. A Guard/Wing combination varies greatly from a Guard/Post combo, but it’s safe to say Russ and KD were the scariest duo in the league, similar to Kobe and Shaq. You almost expected them to win multiple rings once they came into their own.
Stories have come out about Kobe and Shaq being co-workers who despised each other, settling their differences for the common cause. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook come off has friends first, who have yet to reach that ultimate success. Unfortunately, KD and Russ will go down more comparable to Shaq and Penny than Shaq and Kobe.
Do I see Russell Westbrook scoring 81 points in a game like The Mamba? NO… I do see Russ tearing through the association in 2016-17 no matter where he plays. Certain guys have that assassin’s mentality, Kobe and Russ are links in that chain, worn proudly by Michael Jordan before them. They are either loved or hated, almost never an in between. A free Kobe Bryant earned himself a seat at the roundtable… Who knows what a free Russell Westbrook will do?
If the last 8 years’ insane production next to Kevin Durant is any indication, I think we are all in for a delicious treat. If I’m the Oklahoma City Thunder, I’m trying everything in my control to keep Russell Westbrook past next summer. Guys of his mold don’t come along quite often.