Kobe Passing the Torch to a Boy Wonder


Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lying deep in the shrouds of darkness in the Western Conference standings, the Los Angeles Lakers are faced with the ongoing dilemma that has been looming all season–what do we do next?

The Lakers’ fan base has become like the citizens of the fictional city of Gotham who have lost their Dark Knight in Kobe Bryant. Our hero is down at imperfect timing with impediment injuries and blows in a battle against Father Time. Our guy is on the way out and nobody has a clue who will replace him as the hero that the city of Los Angeles needs.

Last season, we believed Superman Dwight Howard was the next hero to take the helm, but he chose to fly off to join a nemesis in the Houston Rockets.

But, wait! Our new hero will surely be arriving in the promising free agency summer of 2014 to save us, right?

Sorry, Los Angeles. Flash and King James aren’t leaving the paradise of South Beach to save us. Carmelo Anthony isn’t taking a pay cut to leave the sinking ship of the S.S. New York Knicks to hop aboard another one that is under construction. As for the rest of the impending free agents, it’s truly hard to believe guys like Loul Deng, Chris Bosh or Danny Granger are worth max contracts and can even handle the role of being the face of the organization.

With the hopeful fantasies and rumors of Kevin Love arriving in 2015 to tease our dreams at night, it’s definitely a challenging time to be optimistic of the future. Right now, things are looking pretty bleak and the next few years could be some of darkest times in recent Lakers’ history.

However, ya know, there’s that famous saying. It goes something like, “The darkest hour is always just before the dawn”. I truly believe Lakers fans can seek optimism in this saying and have faith that the Lakers will rise from the ashes to reclaim a winning place in the basketball universe. Where will we find our new hero, you ask? Through an apprentice like the citizens of Gotham experienced in gaining a new young hero that followed the retirement of Bruce Wayne.

For readers that aren’t familiar with the Batman series, Bruce Wayne (Batman) had a young apprentice and benevolent sidekick named Dick Grayson (Robin). As we fast forward through the series, Wayne trained and mentored Grayson for many years until he retired due to his ultimely death. During this transition, Gotham was left in turmoil for a short while until Grayson stepped up and eventually became the next Batman.

Sounds kind of similar to the Lakers’ situation, right? A fading hero in Kobe Bryant on the brink of concluding his career while a whole city sits on edge while transition occurs.

Except, one problem, there’s no Robin in place to take over. Who will be the Robin that Kobe mentors during his last two years under and eventually replace him as the next Batman? The next face of the Lakers? The next guy to lure future free agents to the City of Angels?

Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

That Robin is Arizona freshman standout, Aaron Gordon.

The Lakers are widely projected by many mock drafts to land Gordon in this year’s draft and, trust me, LA will be more than ecstatic to see the 6’9 power forward in purple and gold.

I was fortunate enough to see Gordon up close when Arizona traveled to Los Angeles to play against Southern Cal. Let me tell you, he’s well worth all the hype and hoopla. He may only be averaging 12.4 pts and seven rebs on the season, but Gordon’s numbers don’t even mirror his true impact and presence on the floor.

The thing that stood out to me in the game was his defensive skills because it seemed like Gordon’s motor never ran out of gas as he covered the entire floor and altered any SC shot that went up near him. His lateral quickness and ability to move in space was undeniably impressive because it felt like he guarded every position on the floor at least once. Then, he started displaying why league scouts have been so high on his draft stock when he nonchalantly threw down a reverse alley-oop while the whole Galen Center crowd let out a collective “Ohhh!”, which even made me blink twice in disbelief if that really just happened.

Think of Gordon as a Blake Griffin 2.0 with his mobility and athleticism around the rim, but having tremendous potential to be better through his lockdown defensive skills, sound fundamentals to guard positions 1-4 and possessing an exceptionally high basketball IQ …that’s a pretty scary combination.

Obviously his offensive aggressiveness is still a work in progress, but his highlights can lend a hand of illuminating true potential that Kobe and the Lakers could develop over the next couple of years.

Yeah, pretty amazing right? If the Lakers can land Gordan, he will undoubtedly fill the role as Kobe’s Robin for the next couple of years before taking over as Batman for Los Angeles.

Now, I’m going to pull out my crystal ball and see into a future where Gordon becomes our next hero.

Let’s hypothetically say Kobe comes back to a competitive level next season and the Lakers draft Gordon. In that season, Gordon continues to show flashes of superstardom, produces descent rookie numbers and learns under Kobe. Then, let’s breathe some life into the rumors surrounding Kevin Love actually signing a max deal with the Lakers in 2015. A new nucleus forming around Kobe, Love and Gordon leading a strong playoff run where Gordon develops into an intricate piece seems pretty reasonable.

Next, I’m gonna go deeper into my crystal ball to a future where Kobe finally plays his last season and rides into the sunset of retirement at the end of 2016.

This will leave the Lakers with an additional max contract since Gordon will still be on his rookie contract and still tons of cap space for role players (barring any stupid signings or trades).

There will be an elite free agent out there around this time, and he’ll be licking his chops to join his friend Love and play with an athletic power forward like Gordon.

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

That’s right, Gordon taking the torch over could lead to a domino effect of Kyrie Irving signing in 2016. Irving and Gordon could become the next coming of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but tremendously better than what our imaginations can conjure. Both players will not even be in their mid-20s yet if they join forces and, with Love along for the ride, the Lakers will be challenging for titles in the next decade.

And it will all start with a young apprentice receiving the torch from a living legend in Kobe. A young apprentice that will give the city of Los Angeles a little bit of hope in a time of being lost. Remember Los Angeles, “The darkest hour is always just before the dawn” and a new hero will rise. That hero could possibly be Aaron Gordon.