However, Kobe is now 32 years old and is approaching the end of his productive, illustrious career. As big as his shoes would be to fill, someone's eventually got to do it.
Who are a few up and coming guards who can possibly replace the Mamba when he moves on?
Jordan Crawford possesses two important aspects to his game to become the next Kobe Bryant: a smooth style and graceful ball-handling skills.
He didn't get too much exposure in Atlanta, but after being traded to the Washington Wizards, Crawford exploded for 16.3 points per game (nearly four times the rookie's average in Atlanta), 1.4 steals and 3.9 assists per game.
Crawford showed he can be a great scorer in this league, and after a few minor tweaks to his game (he shot a poor 23.8 percent from deep) he'll be one of the best scorers. He's a far way from Kobe's level, but even Kobe wasn't Kobe until he started perfecting his craft.
It seems as though Marcus Thornton underwent a complete transformation after being traded from the New Orleans Hornets at the trade deadline. Actually, no. He was just given more minutes to show his capabilities.
Thornton might not have a play style similar to Kobe Bryant, but he's a dynamic shooter/scorer in the NBA and has the potential to become a gem for the Sacramento Kings. As soon as he put on a Kings jersey, Thornton's averages nearly tripled in twice the playing time. He averaged 21.3 points, 1.7 steals and 3.4 assists after the trade deadline, becoming a valuable asset for the future of the franchise.
Thornton also shot a respectable 36.1 percent from downtown. He kind of reminds me of a taller Monta Ellis, who reminds me of Allen Iverson. As far as becoming as dominant a scorer as Kobe is in the NBA, Thornton is making strides in the right direction.
Nick Young's got all of the tools needed to work his way into a Kobe-esque career. Young, too, is an incredible shooter-scorer whose number catapulted after being moved to the starting lineup in Washington.
Young's points per game jumped from 8.6 to 17.4, moving him into the upper echelon of scoring for shooting guards. He also shot an above average 38.4 percent from downtown, but his main source of scoring comes from his ability to create his own shot and finish well at the basket.
Something that the stats don't show is his playmaking ability. Though he only averaged 1.9 assists per game, Young has repeatedly displayed his ability to make spot-on, flashy passes in traffic. Approaching his fifth year in the league, it's time for him to take his game to the next level and play a more well-rounded game, incorporating assists and rebounds into his game.
Once he does that, he'll be a force to be reckoned with.
The 25th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, MarShon Brooks, has been compared several times to Bryant for his smooth, graceful style of play.
Brooks was a supreme scorer in the NCAA, averaging 24.6 points per game (second in the NCAA, behind only Jimmer Fredette) as the starting shooting guard for the Providence Friars. An electrifying scorer, Brooks' instant claim to fame was when he scored 43 points in a loss to the Georgetown Hoyas. He then turned around and put up 52 points in yet another loss against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Brooks is one of those all-around types of guards. He combines his rather deadly mid-range game with a superb slashing ability and an above average three-point shot to attack the defense with a well-rounded array of ways to score.
Remind you of anyone? Kobe is the absolute best-case scenario for Brooks, but a few other great outcomes would be Joe Johnson or even a more disciplined J.R. Smith. Whatever he turns into, the Boston Celtics will be highly upset down the line when they remember they traded him on draft day for JaJuan Johnson.
Who has watched the Lakers play against the Toronto Raptors since DeMar DeRozan was drafted? I don't know about you, but when Kobe Bryant gets matched up against his young protege, it looks as though he shifts into second gear.
I vividly remember watching a Lakers-Raptors game where DeRozan was playing excellent defense, but Kobe played as if it was his annual summer youth basketball camp. The Mamba posted up the young guard, turned around, pump faked a few times and knocked down an extremely contested, fadeaway mid-range jumper while DeRozan stood there completely helpless.
It's those kinds of experiences that make players better, and it's that kind of physical, mental and emotional abuse that DeRozan will learn from and use to better his game.
It seems as though every time Kobe runs into the Raptors, DeRozan steals bits and pieces of his game and adds them to his own. His jumper still needs to develop, but the young Raptors star is most suited to be the heir to Kobe's throne. The two have similar builds, and DeRozan's athletic ability is reminiscent of a young Kobe.
DeRozan's footwork has developed between his first and second seasons, and he's finding different ways to score the basket aside from his ferocious dunks. His numbers jumped from 8.9 to 17.2 points per game after his rookie season. Imagine what he'll be like once his range extends.
Yeah, I'm scared, too.
Kobe Bryant is one of the top 10 players to ever grace an NBA basketball court.
A surefire Hall of Famer, the Black Mamba's legacy will be solidified as one of the greatest guards to ever wear a Los Angeles Lakers jersey. The likelihood of one of the aforementioned players actually following in his footsteps is highly unlikely.
It would take an extreme amount of hard work, practice and dedication, but each of these young guards could turn out to be an All-Star in the near future. But becoming just as good as or even better than Kobe? Let's just say I wouldn't bet my money on that.