NBA fans over the last 12 years have been blessed with some phenomenal players entertaining us both on and off the court. The likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, and James Harden have been among the league’s best players and won numerous individual and team accolades while being popular figures online and in the media.
Since being drafted in 2007, Kevin Durant has consistently performed at the highest level, he is a two-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, 11-time NBA All-Star, and one-time regular season MVP. Alongside his impressive career, he has also maintained a strong online presence via his social media channels, where he candidly shares his views on a wide range of topics, which has only helped to solidify his status.
Durant’s former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook has also enjoyed similar success. Although he hasn’t won an NBA Championship (yet?), he is a nine-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, three-time assist leader, and one-time regular season MVP. Off the court he is well known for his vibrant personality, colorful hairstyles, and unique dress sense, leading to comparisons with Dennis Rodman, the eccentric Chicago Bulls star from the 90s. Rodman was known for wearing clothes believed to be designed for women, something Westbrook emulated in September 2021 when he wore a kilt skirt at New York fashion week.
One of the players who look set to lead the next generation of NBA stars is LaMelo Ball, the Charlotte Hornets starting point guard. The youngest of three basketball playing brothers, LaMelo’s path to the NBA was an unorthodox one. After a stellar high school career in which he achieved feats like scoring from half court just two seconds into a match and scoring 92 points in a single game, he made the brave decision to test his talents professionally overseas. With his father’s guidance, LaMelo moved to Lithuania to represent Prienai at 16 years old, becoming the youngest American to ever sign a professional basketball contract, a move that was heavily criticized by the American media as he was being pursued by some of the best colleges in the NCAA.
Those critics are eating their words now, as LaMelo has finally started to show his potential after a slow start interrupted by injuries. He was voted Rookie of the Year for the 2020-21 season and has started 2021-22 in fine form. His off-court reputation has been boosted by his social media activity, as well as appearing in the reality show “Ball in the Family” alongside his father and brothers.
Having made his professional debut in Spain at 16 years old, European basketball fans have been aware of Luka Doncic for a long time. The Mavericks were excited to bring him in, building a team around the Slovenian, and it’s easy to see why. He became the youngest player to record three triple-doubles in February 2019, breaking Magic Johnson’s long-standing record, as well as finishing the season as only the fifth rookie in NBA history to average at least 20 points 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in his rookie year. Still only 22 years old, Doncic has been one of the best young players in the league this season and could go on to emulate legends of the game like Larry Bird. In an age where players become famous on social media before they’ve played an NBA game, Doncic’s lowkey persona is refreshing.
In his short career so far, Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro has shown the immense desire and ability to shine on the biggest stage. He scored 37 points in Game 4 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals which helped his team reach the NBA Finals, where he became the youngest player to ever start such a game at 20 years and 256 days old. In that same series, he scored the most 3-pointers by a rookie in NBA Playoff history, surpassing a record that has stood for over 20 years. Despite Herro’s incredible efforts, the Lakers were just too strong for Miami and took the championship, but if he continues to break records and come up clutch, he is set to be one of the league’s most successful players.