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10 Best Current Player Mentors in the NBA

Peter EmerickSenior Writer IIJanuary 21, 2017

10 Best Current Player Mentors in the NBA

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    Every NBA player has had a veteran player or coach step into their life and mentor them at some point during their career.

    LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire turned to Hakeem Olajuwon for some mentoring and that's the sign of a mature player. Asking for mentoring leads to growth and, as we saw with LeBron last season, it also leads to titles.

    Being a player mentor isn't something that you can be taught; it's a natural talent and right now, there are some special ones in the NBA.

    Ahead is a list of the 10 best current player mentors in the NBA. 

Hakeem Olajuwon

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    Hakeem Olajuwon is without a doubt one of the best mentors around today, and players know that.

    Guys like LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire are willing to spend time and money in the summer working out with Hakeem "The Dream" to improve their post games. If you don't believe me, check out this video of Amar'e putting in some work with Olajuwon.

    The best part of Olajuwon's mentoring abilities is that he's such a soft-spoken individual. He teaches players with the way he approaches the game, the way he plays it and the way he understands it.

    Olajuwon is one of the most intelligent players to play the game, and that's exactly why he's such a great mentor for players trying to take their game to the next level. 

Dwyane Wade

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    Whether LeBron James wants to admit it or not, Dwyane Wade is the number one reason why he won his first NBA title last season.

    Wade helped LeBron become a better player, and when you can make another superstar better, you know you've reached the level of being a truly incredible player mentor—and that's exactly who Wade is.

    Something else, beside his veteran experience, that he can give to younger players is an understanding of how to take a step back when necessary, as he did this past season so that LeBron could lead the Heat.

    Wade understands that to win, sometimes you need to do what your team needs you to do instead of being the star of the team, and that's something that every young player can learn. Wade's maturity makes him a very dangerous player on the court and a very effective mentor of it. 

Kevin Garnett

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    Kevin Garnett is one crazy dude. He isn't afraid to say what he's thinking. He could care less about what people think about him, and all he wants to do is win.

    Those three things, mixed with his basketball I.Q., are what make Garnett such a great player, and what make him such a strong mentor for the young players that play beside him.

    If Garnett could help Rajon Rondo develop into an All-Star, he can help anyone. I expect players to be paying Garnett to learn from him once he retires, similar to how Olajuwon's services are being used right now.

    Garnett's championship and winning mentality makes him a great player to learn from because he can teach players the way to think about the game in addition to how to play it.

Brian Shaw

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    Any player that Kobe Bryant supports as a possibility to be the next Lakers head coach is a good player mentor. There's just no way around it.

    Kobe himself is a great mentor, and that's because he always had great leaders, mentors and veterans around him. As an assistant coach, Shaw not only had the chance to learn from one of the best in Phil Jackson, but he also learned how to interact with some of the biggest egos of the game.

    Shaw's ability to play with, work with and coach Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal helped mold him into the mentor that he is today.

    He has the unique perspective of knowing how to play with and work with big egos and that's something that every player can learn from. If that wasn't enough, he also understands the game on an elite level because of who mentored him—Phil Jackson—and that makes him one of the best player coaches/mentors around. 

Derek Fisher

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    Derek Fisher is another player who's a product of a passion to learn the game mixed with incredible coaching throughout his career.

    Fisher learned the game from both Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan. He also got the chance to play with players like Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, and he didn't just play with them, he was their court general, and that's what makes him stand out among other players.

    Unlike a majority of other players in the game, Fisher understands how to be a smart, opportunistic player and that's something that is more valuable than most realize.

    The Oklahoma City Thunder didn't bring Fisher on last year because he was the "missing link" to an NBA title. They brought him in because he's the definition of a veteran mentor. While it didn't work as expected, he certainly helped the Thunder's young talent. Don't be shocked when Fisher hangs up his laces and puts on a suit to be an NBA assistant coach. 

Patrick Ewing

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    Patrick Ewing may have never won an NBA title, but he's still a player who understands the game inside and out.

    He's spent the last 10 years building up his coaching resume as an assistant with the Washington Wizards, the Houston Rockets and the Orlando Magic.

    He's a major reason why Dwight Howard has developed into the dominant player that he is today, and his mentoring doesn't stop there. He's a player's coach because he understands how to push players while also building rapport with them.

    Ewing also has a level of intensity to him that other players lack, and that is part of the wisdom that he imparts on younger players. Ewing deserves a shot as a head coach because he's a great player mentor, and that would translate into success at the head level in the NBA. 

Tim Duncan

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    They don't call Tim Duncan the "Big Fundamental" for nothing. He understands the game on a level that most players can only ever dream of.

    He has Gregg Popovich to thank in large part for that, but he also has a desire to learn, and that's something that is contagious. It's also something that he can get young players to learn from him.

    There's a reason why the San Antonio Spurs are always such a competitive team, and it's not just because of Popovich's coaching talent. It's because the Spurs have a veteran player in Duncan, who can help players achieve their full potential in little time. 

    Duncan's humble, yet confident approach is great for young players and veterans alike. He teaches players that they can succeed and get better by understanding the game on a deeper and more complete level. The way Duncan mentors young players is truly special. 

Kobe Bryant

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    Kobe Bryant is a selfish player and he's not the greatest teammate in the world, but you can't deny the fact that he knows the game better than almost anyone in the NBA.

    The knowledge that Kobe imparts onto younger players is invaluable. While at times he may act arrogant or abrupt with them, he's just teaching them the importance of not just playing the game, but also understanding it.

    Kobe isn't afraid to make other players dislike him, because he knows that what he is teaching him and the way he's doing it, makes them better and more complete players in the long run.

    If he wants to, Kobe would be a great coach some day. He knows the game inside and out. He isn't afraid to push everyone around him, and most importantly, he cares about winning at all costs. That's the perfect make up of a great player mentor and a head coach. 

Steve Nash

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    Steve Nash is the best court general in the game and he's earned that honor by learning how to make the most of his efforts on the court.

    Mixing that mentoring with Kobe's leadership is going to be an absolutely dynamic combination for the Lakers this season. We'll see how well that mentoring duo works as they mold Dwight Howard into a more mature player.

    Even if things don't work in L.A. with Nash, he'll still have a long career in basketball as a coach at some level, because he has a level of basketball I.Q. that every player only hopes of ever attaining.

    Nash's mentoring doesn't only impact the way players play the game though either. He has a positive personality that is contagious, and that personality is something players are drawn to and players should want to be like. Nash is a player mentor that people are drawn to, and that is a very valuable quality to have. 

Gregg Popovich

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    Gregg Popovich needs "another dose of nasty", and what Popovich wants, he gets. That's what makes him such a great mentor and head coach.

    More than any coach in the NBA today, Popovich understands how to use the talent he has on his roster to put together an impressively competitive team year in and year out.

    More than that though, he helps players realize their full potential because he helps them realize how to best utilize their talents in a way that is productive, effective and efficient. The knowledge he imparts on young players is extremely valuable and it's what makes him such a special coach.

    NBA players around the league have a deep respect for "Pop," and that's because he loves the game and he loves the players he works with. That is also at the foundation of why he's such a great mentor for young players and players looking to turn the corner in their careers. 

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