During his time in the league, former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant played against many of the game’s current top stars before he stepped away. That saw him interact and grow relationships with young promising talent in his final few years before wrapping up his illustrious NBA career. There was one player that caught his eye that believed would be the next superstar once he was gone.
Kobe Bryant went up against the next generation
His two decades in the league, Bryant had the opportunity to play with many talented players across the league.
Even in the latter stages of his career, he was still playing at an elite level before his Achilles injury. That saw him go back and forth with many of the game’s top players such as Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Dwyane Wade, among others.
Bryant also had a keen eye for spotting out young talent in the latter end of his career that garnered his respect, such as Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. However, there was another player that had his attention early in their respective career.
1 player that caught Kobe Bryant’s eye
During much of his career, Bryant played against some of the best talent now in the league. In his last few seasons, he took on more of a mentor role to the younger promising group.
Among those saw him have a strong influence over James Harden, who had shown flashes early on in his career. That is something that Tyson Chandler stated back in September that during the lockout in 2011, Bryant to him that Harden was the next superstar after him, according to Jonathan Fiegen of The Houston Chronicle.
“Kobe told me during the lockout. We were playing pickup and James was there. Kobe was like, after a pickup game, we were sitting down, icing, he was like, “He’s going to be the next one after me.’
“I was like, “Really?” This was a young James. (Kobe) was like, he’s going to be the next one after me.’ ‘If you say so. You know better than anybody.’ And he’s proven it. James, the work that he’s put in to get to the level he’s at now, fighting for MVP every year, you have to take your hat off to that. You don’t just get there. That’s work. That’s a lot of work, that is not seen, behind closed doors.”
That is certainly some high praise towards Harden as it was after just his second year in the league that saw him average 12.2 points per contest. The following season, he captured the Sixth Man of the Year award, and after that campaign, he was traded to the Houston Rockets.
That was a bold statement from Bryant, but it’s something that his keen eye caught early on from what has been an impressive career from Harden. He has developed into an eight-time All-Star and former league MVP.
Kobe Bryant’s impact on James Harden
Although he retired after the 2015-16 season, Bryant had a tremendous impact on many players he played with and those that continued after his time in the league.
Harden has been one of the numerous talents that the former Lakers star had a tremendous impact on him as he looked back on that time working out with him. (H/T Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle)
“I remember that day,” Harden said. “Coming from Bean himself … somebody I grew up watching, what he did for a very, very long time at the highest level. We always witnessed that how great he was. Coming from him was pretty cool.”
It’s hard to pinpoint how much of an influence he had on the NBA. With each passing day since his death, it’s become more evident he affected many on and off the court. Bryant’s legacy is one that goes well beyond his own career and will stay on that path for years to come.