By: Jalon Dixon, Staff Writer
In the aftermath of the former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant-inspired All Star game and his nationally-renowned memorial, the league continues to reacclimate themselves to NBA competition as teams look to push for the postseason.
Rather than continuing to sulk in mourning over the legend’s death, a handful of the NBA’s rising stars are commemorating and celebrating the passing of the fourth all-time leading scorer in the only way they know how: putting the ball in the basket unlike anyone has ever seen before.
Of these young stars, we have to start with Boston Celtics third-year forward Jayson Tatum. As a Kobe disciple with a knack for scoring the basketball, Tatum’s already great year is only getting better by the dribble. Coming off of the All-Star break, Tatum has had four outstanding scoring outputs that include two 30-point games and 41-point game in a guard Kemba Walker-less battle against Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the four games the Celtics have played since the break, Tatum has taken at least 20 shot attempts in each game game and asserting himself as Boston’s primary scoring option over Walker. After being selected to his first All-Star team while playing on a team that is only one game out of second place in the Eastern Conference, we should continue to expect big things from Tatum as he continues to lead the Celtics to the playoffs.
Former Boston guard Antoine Walker said on FS1’s First Things First that, “Right now Jayson Tatum will finish his career as a Celtic in that conversation with [Larry] Bird, Paul Pierce, and he’ll be going into the rafters at the rate he’s going.”
Although it may come off as biased hyperbole from a former Celtics all-star, Walker’s comments only expound upon the litany of praise being sung for Tatum across the NBA media.
Next is guard Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. Although Beal has been in the league eight seasons, the young 26-year-old is having a career year averaging a career-high 30.1 points per game to go along with six assists and 4.4 rebounds. Beal is coming off an all-star snub despite being the driving force of the fifth highest scoring team in the NBA.
But of course, Beal responded as any rising star should by putting the league on notice with two back-to-back 50 point games. He becomes the first player in franchise history and just the 11th in league history to accomplish such a feat. Fittingly, he achieved this on the night of Bryant’s memorial service.
Beal quite literally put the NBA world on notice as Beal claimed the league =had him drug tested after the consecutive performances. If that is not a sign that Beal is an ascending star, then no performance will ever speak to how special of a player he really is. Unfortunately, since he plays for the Wizards who are bottom dwelling in the East, he will continue to be one of the most underrated two-way players in the NBA alongside Milwaukee Bucks all-star forward Kris Middleton and New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday.
Last is Chicago Bulls rookie point guard Coby White. As part of the roller-coaster ride that is the Bulls’ lineup, White has been one of the few players on the roster to avoid the injury bug and it looks like he is starting to come into his own. Since the all-star break, White has had three straight 30 plus point games making him the first Chicago rookie to do that since Bulls Legend and Naismith Hall of Fame guard Michael Jordan.
To go with that elite company, White also became the first rookie reserve to score 30 plus points in three straight games. You read correctly: yes he is doing all this coming off the bench. Among all the chatter about fellow rookies such as New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, White is starting to make head waves in the national media as the rookie is starting to show his value as a potential core piece in the Bulls future.
As teams continue to grind towards the postseason, we can only expect the outstanding performances to continue. While teams continue to jockey for seed position or even fight for a postseason berth, the stakes are only rising, the level of competitiveness increases and rising stars will emerge in the pursuit of the playoffs.