Kobe Bryant has been among the most culturally relevant players in the NBA for nearly all of his 17-season career. When not winning championships or scoring titles (and often when doing so), Bryant has been one of the more divisive stars in league history, earning criticism for perceived selfishness and nevertheless standing out as one of the most talented and committed players the league has ever seen. No matter what he does, people notice it.
It should not come as a great surprise, then, to learn that the younger generation of NBA players looks up to him. As revealed in the annual survey of rookies conducted by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, Bryant is the most common favorite player of this season's incoming class of NBA rookies (via PBT). Here's the voting breakdown from the 36 participants:
1: Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers -- 21.2 percent
2: LeBron James, Miami -- 15.2 percent
T-3rd: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City & Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas -- 12.1 percent
T-5th: Kevin Garnett, Brooklyn & Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers -- 9.1 percent
Others receiving votes: Carmelo Anthony, New York; Vince Carter, Dallas; Tim Duncan, San Antonio; James Harden, Houston; Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio; Steve Nash, L.A. Lakers; Dwyane Wade, Miami
As Schuhmann notes elsewhere, Kobe supplanted LeBron at the top of this list, although it's a little surprising that the Lakers icon doesn't win every year. While James is undoubtedly the best player in the NBA right now, the 19- and 20-year-olds entering the league have never really known an NBA without Bryant serving as a massively important representative of the league. It stands to reason that, even if many players were on the anti-Kobe side, enough would love him that he would win this award until he retires. When LeBron is 35, we would expect him to cast the same sort of shadow over a generation of players.
This vote is a testament to Kobe's impact, as well as a useful reminder of the sheer force of his accomplishments. Seventeen years after his arrival in the league, Kobe is still relevant enough to top a list of favorite players. No matter what, he keeps himself on people's minds.
Oh, and nabbing that No. 1 spot can't only be a matter of being in the league for a long time. If that were the case, Vince Carter wouldn't have been another receiving votes.