As the new crop of NBA stars rolls in, we are reminded each and every time that no matter what happens or who retires, a league as big as the NBA will always be in good hands. While guys like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have all come and gone as the face of the league, there’s enough talent as of now to suggest that we will soon have a new face of the league once LeBron eventually ages and retires. Here are those stars.
The most obvious candidate for the next face of the league once LeBron leaves, Giannis has already achieved so much at his young age. His development from prospective talent to genuine superstar is nothing short of meteoric, and it’s easy to see why. Blessed with a 6’11 frame and a 7’3 wingspan, his playmaking skills on top his freakish athleticism make him a nightmare to guard, as if he isn’t creating offence for his team he is scoring at will himself. On top of his offensive capabilities, he is an excellent defender using his long reach to contest shots and interrupt the passing lanes, making him a true two-way star. Think of LeBron James in Kevin Durant’s body, albeit with more muscle, and you can truly visualise how talented the Greek Freak is. All he needs to do is develop his jumpshot, and we’ll truly see him take over the NBA.
Right now the clear favourite to win Rookie of the Year is showing why he was the consensus No.1 Draft pick in 2016. He’s almost too similar to LeBron James in the way he plays, as he shares the same ability of driving to the rim, passing the ball and snatching rebounds, as well as they both entered the league with broken jumpshots. In the same case as Giannis, Simmons cannot shoot at all, but once he figures it out on top of his physical gifts and skillset, we’re looking at a truly exceptional star.
While it took him 3 seasons to make his NBA debut, and even then he could only manage 31 games, it’s evident as to why we just have to “Trust the Process”. Embiid’s talent is obvious, big men like him rarely ever come around, as his game is simply flawless. He’s got post-moves aplenty, a mid-range game on top of being a weapon from the 3-point line, and he is one of the best defensive big men in the game today. He’s already surpassed fellow young star Karl Anthony-Towns as the best young big in the game, and has twice the freakish talent. The only thing holding him back is his body and health, but if he is able to move on from his injury issues, we are looking at the modern day Hakeem Olajuwon.
It feels as though Davis has been around forever, but the truth is that he is still only 24 years old, and is nowhere near his prime. AD is the prototypical modern NBA big man; he can score inside and outside with relative ease, can handle the ball adequately and is possibly the best defensive big man in the league. While he is injury prone, when his health hasn’t been a factor he can do anything, and he can be anything he wants to be. He finally has received some help in New Orleans in the form of Demarcus Cousins, so we can truly see him reach his potential.
There has never been a more hated, scrutinised rookie in NBA history, than Lonzo Ball. Whether it’s his painfully awkward shooting form, or his loudmouth father claiming him to be better than Stephen Curry, what can’t be denied is his playmaking talent. He has that gift of passing, a willingness to forgo his scoring if it means he can put his teammates in positions to score and excel. His start was horrible barring a few games when he turned on the aggression and showed his talent, however in recent weeks he’s steadied his play and is putting up the numbers we expected of him. He’s looking to be exactly like Jason Kidd, and while he may not be the face of the league, his name means he’ll always be in the headlines and his talent should see him be a player considered among the elite once he reaches his prime.
How do they compare to previous legends?
The NBA has had no shortage of legends in its time, featuring such players as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, among many others. Recently we have seen stars such as Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James cement their legacies, so it’s only a matter of time before the younger generation makes its mark.
It has to be said, that right now we are experiencing an absolute plethora of talent in this generation, perhaps the most talent since the NBA’s best period during the 1990s. The 1990s saw many stars who went on to have Hall of Fame careers, such as Charles Barkely, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and of course Michael Jordan, among many other legends. Right now we have been able to name five clear candidates to become the face of the league in the foreseeable future, and yet there are still many other players in the league currently who could make a case, on top of any prospects in High School and College. To put it simply, basketball is in great hands, as we are experiencing the greatest wealth and spread of basketball talent since its most illustrious period. It’s great to be a basketball fan right now.