The NBA is a superstar-driven league, and by nature, that makes it cyclical. Some superstars outshine others and that's what puts them in the conversation to be discussed among the greatest players to play the game at the professional level.
Eras have been defined by great players for decades. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were among the first, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird had their time, and Michael Jordan is almost synonymous with the NBA in the 90s.
Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were the last to three-peat, Tim Duncan and the Spurs had their dynasty and LeBron James has been the face of the league for the last decade. But now James is 37 and despite defying age, will soon be out of the league.
This has set up the younger stars to become the next greats, Giannis Antetokounmpo has already established himself, while players like Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, and Jayson Tatum are waiting in the wings. And in an interview with Taylor Rooks, O'Neal referenced the fact that someone needs to take over from LeBron, mentioning Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum.
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"At some point, the student must kill the master to become the master, and LeBron is the aging master. So, this is everybody's opportunity. I wish I was playing right now because I've been through this. The reason why I've been successful and never had many ups and downs is because I'm used to the ups and downs.
"When I get to the NBA, Oh my God, Mike (Michael Jordan), Dominique (Wilkins), (Larry) Bird. So, I'm playing, trying to get to the top, and then Jordan. Oh, Jordan's left? Jordan leaves for the year? This sh*t's mine. All mine. Like I was a student for a while, but it's my turn to be the master. Jordan's gone? This sh*t's mine, I'm taking over.
"LeBron had the spot too long. It ain't nothing personal, but he gonna be gone two or three years. Giannis (Antetokounmpo) is saying, 'This my league right now.' Tatum is saying, 'Hey, I just put KD (Kevin Durant) away, you better recognize my name."
Several young stars could step up to the mantle that the King will soon leave behind, and this is arguably the most exciting time for NBA fans as they watch greats build their legacies. Tatum is one of the few that have the capabilities to do it, and he could make an even bigger statement if he can lead the Boston Celtics to a Game 7 and series win after his stellar Game 6 performance.