Kobe Bryant was known for a great competitor but also a mentor for several young players. The Black Mamba studied the younger generations and even picked the ones who would come after him in the association. He trained with several players, including Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook.
However, when he had to pick his unofficial successor, Bean selected one guy that hadn't demonstrated a lot in the league. In 2019, Tyson Chandler recalled the story of the time Kobe Bryant picked James Harden as his successor in the league. Bryant said this in 2011 when Harden was starting his career in the league. Obviously, he saw something in the Beard, who is now one of the best players in the association.
"He's come a long (way,)" Chandler said. "I have nothing but respect for any guys I see come in and the talent they have, maximize it. Kobe told me during the lockout. We were playing pickup and James was there. Kobe was like, after a pickup game, we were sitting down, icing, he was like, "He's going to be the next one after me.'
"I was like, "Really?" This was a young James. (Kobe) was like, he's going to be the next one after me.' 'If you say so. You know better than anybody.' And he's proven it. James, the work that he's put in to get to the level he's at now, fighting for MVP every year, you have to take your hat off to that. You don't just get there. That's work. That's a lot of work, that is not seen, behind closed doors."
Harden had finished his second year in OKC. The next one, he was crowned the Sixth Man of the Year, helping the Thunder reach the Finals before going to Houston, where he currently plays, winning an MVP award and becoming one of the best players in the league and one of the best scorers of all time. If you ask me, everything points out that Kobe was right.