Over the last few years of his career, Kobe Bryant morphed from a cutthroat competitor to an elder statesman. That statement isn’t meant to say that the Black Mamba ever stopped being a fierce entity on the court.
Rather, the anger that seethed behind his performances was harder and harder to see due to injuries and frustrating campaigns. Fans loved the narrative that number 24 was a throwback to a less buttoned up era in the NBA.
A player that seems to be carrying the torch for the type of fire that the 38-year-old played each game with is Russell Westbrook.
The Lower Merion High School alum has voiced his support of the Oklahoma City star on Twitter in the past. Recently in an interview with Jim Rome, the legendary Laker said he sees Westbrook as cut from the same cloth as himself.
He said: “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].”
That is pretty high praise from one of the greatest players in league history. But, under greater scrutiny, these comments make a good deal of sense. The Philadelphia native knows more than the average player about the type of criticism that the two-time All-Star endures.
The Mamba continued: “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.”
Sounds like it could apply to the former UCLA man as well. The same effort that he exhibits every night has casual fans believing that he should be a front runner for MVP. But, can Westbrook become synonymous with winning like Bryant did?