Quite a few NBA players are turning in breakout seasons, so it's time to get to know the next wave of impactful stars. Legends such as Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett cannot play forever, even if we wish they could.
The next group of superstars are breaking in before our eyes, but it's up to us to discern which players are special. As future Hall of Famer Steve Nash plays out the final stages of his career, 20-year old point guard Kyrie Irving is performing at a level well above that of a second-year player.
The Association is loaded with eccentric characters and that isn't going to change going forward. Athletes as a whole tend to live larger than average people, which always leads to unforgettable stories.
Some of the players that appear on this list will be partnered with a strange fact, while others will be accompanied by a heartwarming or jaw-dropping one.
Fact: His favorite player is Kobe Bryant
Paul George made his first All-Star Game appearance this season, as the Fresno State product filled in admirably in Danny Granger's absence. George only played two years of collegiate ball but thoroughly dominated the competition in the Western Athletic Conference.
At 6'9" and 215 pounds, George has the size to play at either shooting guard or small forward. This season, George has played small forward, averaging 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, four assists and 1.8 steals per contest.
While he may play a different position than his favorite player, Kobe Bryant, both men possess tremendous athleticism.
George cites Bryant's competitive nature and work ethic as the primary reasons for his adoration of the Black Mamba.
In his third season, Bryant averaged 19.9 points, which is just 2.3 points more than George is averaging this season. That isn't to say that George will ever live up to Bryant's actual legacy, but it's intriguing none the less.
Fact: He was born in Melbourne, Australia before moving to New Jersey
Kyrie Irving's ascension to the league's elite has been breathtaking, as he has made the Cleveland Cavaliers watchable this season without much aid.
Irving was born in Australia because his father was playing professional basketball in Melbourne at the time. At this point, he holds dual United States and Australian citizenship, which means he could represent either country in international competition.
In his second season, Irving was voted to the take part in the All-Star Game, which did not shock anyone. Currently, Irving is leading all point guards in scoring, as he is averaging 23.3 points per game.
This future star was born Down Under, although he will likely be one of the best players on Team USA come the 2016 Olympics.
Fact: He was a two-time Weber State Male Athlete of the Year winner.
Damian Lillard is the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year, as he has separated himself from the rest of the rookie class. It's safe to say the Portland Trail Blazers found their point guard of the future when they drafted Lillard with the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
The hype surrounding Lillard was under the radar through his college years due to his decision to play for Weber State. True talent and hard work paid off for Lillard though, as scouts fell in love with his explosive offensive game.
While at Weber State, Lillard was a two-time winner of the Weber State Male Athlete of the Year award. The young point guard also won the Big Sky Conference MVP award twice, as he finished his career ranked fifth in the conference in all-time points scored.
Clearly, Lillard was the big man on campus during his time at Weber State. That confidence has carried over to the NBA game, as Lillard has proven he can make shots during crunch time.
Fact: He was the first person born in the '90s to play in the NBA.
With Andrew Bynum being unavailable so far this season due to injury, Jrue Holiday has emerged as a superstar. If not for Holiday, who knows how bad the Philadelphia 76ers would be, as they are 22-32 with him.
Holiday played his college ball at UCLA but declared for the 2009 NBA draft after his freshman season. The 76ers selected Holiday with the 17th selection, and he was the starting point guard for the majority of his rookie season.
During his first appearance for the 76ers, Holiday became the first player born in the '90s to play in the NBA. It's pretty crazy that we're already in the era of players born in the '90s, considering that Holiday is just 22 years old.
Out of all NBA players born in the '90s, Holiday has logged the most points, assists and minutes thus far.
The future of the Association is upon us, with Holiday leading the charge.
Fact: He's an artist
Larry Sanders is leading the NBA in blocks, as he sends back an average of 3.2 shots per game. The VCU product has developed into one of the league's premier defensive playmakers, which is something the Milwaukee Bucks need with their leaky backcourt.
Off the court, Sanders has plenty of other hobbies, with art being one of his favorites. According to Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball.com, Sanders said the following about his art:
Art was my first love really. I started drawing a lot when I was younger. I was really into comics and cartoon art, but I couldn’t draw with a pencil though, I could only draw with a pen, so I’d have scrapbooks.
You're probably thinking that artists shouldn't be doing their sketching in pen, and you would be right. In the same piece, Sanders clarifies:
They would come with 50 pages, but I would end up with only 12 because I had do throw those pages away when I messed up. It was just a love of mine that I kept going with.
It appears as if Sanders loves to play defense, which is fortunate for Bucks fans far and wide.
Fact: He Got Game is his favorite movie
After getting off to a slow start in his rookie season, Bradley Beal has exploded since backcourt mate John Wall returned from injury. So far in the month of February, Beal is averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
When growing up, Beal looked up to Ray Allen and Allen Iverson. He took a particular liking to the movie "He Got Game, in which Allen played the role of Jesus Shuttlesworth.
According to Michael Lee of WashingtonPost.com, Beal said the following in regards to He Got Game and Allen:
That’s my favorite movie. After that movie I was [a big fan]. This Ray Allen is more of a catch-and-shoot guy. He’s doesn’t really attack the basket like he used to. He’s still capable, but it’s not the same. He’s still older and he’s a shooter now. In previous years, he was more of a scorer. He was super-athletic, defended well. Great feet. Could shoot the ball off the basket and finish at the rim.
The way in which Beal compliments Allen's game is like a schoolgirl gushing about her crush, which makes the situation entertaining considering both players are still active.
Beal has one of the brightest futures in the NBA, so it may be Allen's children who look up to the Florida product one day soon.
Fact: He met his wife when he was 15 years old.
Stephen Curry has finally managed to stay healthy, and the results have been great. So far this season, Curry is averaging 21 points and 6.6 assists while posting a PER of 19.75.
Off the court, Curry was married in the summer of 2011 to his college sweetheart. The couple goes back even farther than that though, as Curry met his wife when he was 15.
For their wedding, Curry and his wife asked their guests to donate to ThanksUSA, which is a non-profit organization that provides college scholarships for the children of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces
In an era when athletes are questioned for their behavior in relationships, it's refreshing to see a star like Curry in a healthy relationship.
About a year after his marriage, Curry welcomed his daughter Riley into the world. Whether or not Curry's stable personal life has aided in his growth as a player is not quantifiable, but it certainly hasn't hurt.
Fact: He helped to release a mixtape prior to being drafted.
Kemba Walker has taken a major step forward during his second season, as he struggled during his rookie year. He can hardly be blamed for struggling as a rookie due to the fact that the Charlotte Bobcats posted the worst winning percentage in NBA history.
After leading the University of Connecticut to the Big East and NCAA titles during his junior season, Walker declared for the NBA draft as a household name.
According to DimeMag.com, Walker helped to release a mix-tape with the help of DJ Skee. The tape was called "EZ Pass" and featured tracks by the likes of Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and other rap legends.
The music on "EZ Pass" is said to inspire Walker, so there's little doubt he has been listening to it prior to games all season.