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Kobe Bryant amused that Rolling Stone deemed Kevin Durant the next Kobe

March 26, 2010 | 12:33 pm

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has made it clear over the years he didn't like the comparisons people made of him and Michael Jordan.

"To me, it's laughable to get a comparison because I learned so much from him and so much of my game is a part of his," Bryant recently told Sports Illustrated's Dan Patrick. "My game is built from his game as his game derived from players that came before him."

So one can only imagine Bryant's reaction when Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi wrote the following in a recent article about Oklahoma City guard Kevin Durant:

[Durant’s ability] to challenge demented three-faced narcissist Kobe Bryant and the Laker hegemony has been the highlight of the year … The now-inexorable climb down the dominance ladder for a megalomaniac like Kobe is a tale every sports fan outside L.A. can’t help but appreciate." “Kobe has always been smart and predatory and pathologically driven, and he’s going to maximize every last drop of ability in an attempt to stay on the throne, so the Lakers will hold off the Thunder for a few more years. But the moment is coming when Kobe is going to throw everything he has at Durant, and this wide-eyed, lanky, respectful kid – nothing personal, Mr. Bryant – is going to kick his ... anyway. That’ll be a delicious moment, and it might even happen this year.

Hmm, that should make the Lakers' matchup tonight with the Oklahoma City Thunder rather interesting. Apparently, Bryant's four NBA championships, one Finals and one regular-season MVP, 11-time All-NBA honors, nine-time NBA all-defensive honors and 12th-place standing on the league's all-time scoring list don't count. When asked about the story, Bryant didn't explain how those numbers bode more impressive than the simple fact Durant accomplishments only entail ranking second in the league in scoring (29.7 points per game) and winning the 2007-08 Rookie of the Year Award. Mamba, himself, ranks fourth (27.5) points per game this season, a dropoff that mostly points to how the fractured right index finger has affected his shooting.

Instead, Bryant called the conversation an "honor" and then "entertaining." Added Bryant: "I think it shows a sign of respect for all the work I put in."

There's no question that Bryant's body is aging. Heck, 13 years in the league and his assorted number of injuries just this season (fractured right index finger, sprained left ankle, back spasms) will do that to you. There's also no question Durant has helped expedite Oklahoma City's development, as they currently stand with a 43-27 record and are contending for a sixth seed in the West . After all, Durant's clip of 30, 19 and 29 points against the Lakers this season convinced Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to acknowledge, "He's a very special player."

But it is way too early to proclaim that Durant, in his third season, has surpassed or is in position to surpass Bryant as a basketball player. Bryant hadn't even won his first championship his third season, so at that point it was far too early to assess Bryant's legacy, let alone provide a snapshot of it. The same applies to Durant.

That doesn't mean Durant lacks the potential to eventually be the league's torchbearer, but he's not at that point. That's something Bryant says will be determined later down the line.

"It depends how he develops and if the coaching staff he has around him will tell him what he's doing right and what he's doing wrong," Bryant said. "A lot of coaches get scared to tell players what they're doing wrong. I didn’t grow up like that. “I grew up with Tex [Winter] and Tex would tell you that you stink, you know what I mean? If you had to work on something, he would tell you and I think that helped me.”

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com


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