Kobe’s enduring legacy: How his greatness spawned a generation of Kobes

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On the day her youngest son was born, Rochette Wilson awoke to a big surprise.

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Her husband had named their newborn baby after his favorite NBA player while she was heavily sedated because of complications during labor.

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“When my wife was coherent enough to know what was going on, they bring our son in from the nursery and they’re like, “Here’s Kobe!” Carlos Wilson recalled with a chuckle. “She’s like, ‘Who?’ They say, ‘Kobe.’ She’s like, ‘Who named him Kobe?’ The other people in the room point at me, and she gives me this ‘go-to-hell’ look like I’d never seen before and I’ve never seen afterward. But by that point I had filled out all the paperwork, so his name was locked in.”

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An aspiring basketball coach who had just founded an AAU team in Texas at the time of his son’s birth, Carlos had a deep appreciation for Kobe Bryant even as the 20-year-old Los Angeles Lakers Jerseys phenom was just launching his NBA career. When doctors asked Carlos the name of his newborn son, he made an impulse decision to pick “Kobe” instead of one of the biblical names he and his wife had previously discussed.

View gallery.Seventeen-year-old Kobe Wilson is one of more than 14,000 boys named after Bryant during his 20 years in the NBA. Those namesakes are as much a part of Bryant’s legacy as his five championship rings, two Olympic gold medals and 18 All-Star appearances.

Some of the oldest of that legion of Kobes are just beginning to gain attention for basketball at the same time as Bryant is months away from retiring.

There’s UCLA-bound Kobe Paras, a teenage heartthrob in his native Philippines who hopes to be the next guard named Kobe to star in Los Angeles. There’s Wisconsin-bound Kobe King, a promising shooting guard whose cousin is former Fab Five member Jimmy King. And there’s Arizona-bound Kobi Jordan Simmons, a McDonald’s All-American named after two of the greatest players in NBA history.

The name “Kobe” never cracked the Social Security Administration’s list of the nation’s 1,000 most popular boy’s names until Bryant’s rookie season, but its stature has mirrored the ebb and flow of his career ever since. It rocketed into the low 200s by the time Bryant captured his first championship in 2000, dipped noticeably after he was accused of rape three years later and then climbed again afterward as he gradually repaired his image.

At a time when Americans take cues from Hollywood on everything from clothes, to cars, to charitable causes, it’s no surprise that baby names have also become increasingly celebrity¬driven. You’re more likely to meet a newborn “Mila,” “Reese” or “Arya” today than you are a “Lindsay,” “Patricia” or “Karen.”

[More on Kobe Bryant’s legacy: Five prep prospects named after the Lakers star]

“There’s a real arms race among parents to be new and different, and that’s different from past generations,” said Laura Wattenberg, author of the book “The Baby Name Wizard.” “The name Kobe struck a chord with people because of his image as a player and the very contemporary sound of the name. In a lot of ways, it was the perfect combination.”

When Bryant’s own parents named him after the pricey, well-marbled steak they saw on a restaurant menu, the name was so distinctive that he has insisted he never encountered another Kobe throughout his entire childhood. Now there are boys named after Bryant in every corner of the country, from his native Philadelphia, to his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, to places like Salt Lake City or Sacramento, where he has received only boos and catcalls his entire career.

View gallery.

When McCaskey High School point guard Kobe Gantz was in grade school, his father had this poster of him and Kobe …If his family hadn’t already owned a Rottweiler named Jordan, Georgia native Kobi Jordan Simmons probably would have been called that, too, in honor of the Chicago Bulls Jerseys star. The Arizona-bound point guard instead became Kobi when his 4-year-old older brother suggested combining the names of the greatest shooting guard in NBA history and his heir apparent.

“My wife liked that idea so much she was done after that,” Demond Stephens said. “It was much better than having your son have the same name as your dog. You don’t where to buy cheap nba jerseys want to be like, ‘Jordan!’ and here comes your Rottweiler.”

Kobe Smith, a standout wide receiver and shooting guard from Gardena, Calif., would have been named after Earvin “Magic” Johnson if his father Anthony initially had his way. Only after Smith’s mother recoiled at the idea of naming her son “Earvin” did the couple consider another Lakers luminary.

“He was like, ‘How about Earvin?’ I was like, ‘How about not,'” Smith’s mother Julia Boyer recalled. “If we were going to name him after a Lakers player, it was going to be Kobe.”

Parents who name a son after Bryant often go to great lengths to make sure he loves the Lakers star as much as they do. They hang framed posters or jerseys in their son’s bedroom, shell out $100 for baby shoes modeled after Bryant’s latest basketball sneakers and place child-sized hoops around the house so little Kobe can master a jump shot as soon as he learns to walk.

When Kobe Gantz was still in grade school in Lancaster, Pa., his father had a poster made featuring his son clutching a basketball on one side and an image of Bryant dunking on the other. The poster hung in Gantz’s room until he was about 12, but by then the promising McCaskey High School point guard already had eyes for other basketball players.

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Park Tudor High School point guard Kobe Webster (via Isaac Webster)”He still respects Kobe Bryant, but he’s not his favorite player,” dad Collins Gantz said. “Now he’s a big Kevin Durant fan.”

Kobe Webster, a two-time state champion point guard at Indiana’s Park Tudor High School, is such an ardent fan of Bryant that he’ll watch replays of Lakers games from the Kobe-Shaq era and emulate his namesake’s moves at the gym. When a stranger at the barber shop insisted earlier this month that Bryant was no longer worthy of a spot in the Lakers’ starting lineup, Webster staunchly defended his favorite player.

“My son told the guy, ‘He’s Kobe Bryant. He should start until the day he retires,’ ” dad Isaac Webster said with a chuckle. “That’s definitely a guy you can’t talk badly about around my son.”

No matter how enthusiastic their parents are about basketball or Bryant, not every young Kobe inherits the same passion.

In Indiana, there’s a Kobe who’s headed to Purdue on a wrestling scholarship after winning a state championship at 220 pounds last year. In Florida, there’s a Kobe who’s one of the state’s best defensive shortstops and will play at Alabama State next year. Elsewhere, there are numerous Kobes with no interest in sports whatsoever.

Thankfully for Carlos Wilson, his son shares his love of basketball.

Kobe Wilson has blossomed into one of the better point guard prospects in the state of Arkansas and has already begun to receive looks from Division I programs. Perhaps someday he’ll even play for Arkansas State, where his dad is now in his second season as an assistant coach.

Carlos knows he took a risk naming his son after Bryant without consulting his wife, but Rochette Wilson apparently has forgiven her husband.

“She’s a trooper,” Carlos said. “The initial shock lasted a couple days, but about a week into it she was good with it. The name has been a perfect fit. I couldn’t have named him anything better.” Sports & RecreationKobe Bryant

Warriors’ Kerr returning to bench Friday

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Coach Steve Kerr is returning to the Golden State Warriors Jerseys’ bench Friday night after a leave of absence dating to the first week of training camp in October as he recovered from complications following two back surgeries.

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The defending champion Warriors made the announcement Friday morning that Kerr would coach Golden wholesale nba basketball jerseys State against Indiana at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors will try to win their 38th straight regular-season home game to tie the 1985-86 Celtics for third place on the all-time list for such unbeaten streaks. The Warriors went 39-4 in Kerr’s absence. They are 19-0 at home this season and haven’t lost at Oracle since a 113-111 overtime loss to Chicago last Jan. 27.

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The 50-year-old Kerr said in mid-December that he was optimistic he would be back in the coming weeks. Kerr had been dealing with headaches and other issues after the operations – the first procedure causing him to leak spinal fluid – that followed Golden State’s first championship in 40 years. He watched the Warriors’ record 24-0 start from behind the scenes.

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During a shootaround in Cleveland on Monday before Golden State’s 132-98 blowout of the Cavaliers in an NBA Finals rematch, Kerr made an underhanded heave from half court that banked in. He raised his arms in triumph, kicked his right leg out and pumped his fist afterward. That video went out on social media, and had to alert many that he was close to healthy at last.

When he began the wholesale nba basketball jerseys leave of absence, he initially had hoped to return by Jan. 1, but he did begin taking road trips in recent weeks to test his symptoms. He might still require a day off from time to time.

In his first season last year, Kerr guided Golden State to a franchise-record 67-win campaign and its first championship since 1975. Even during his absence, he addressed the team and offered input despite watching the games from an office in the arena or at home depending on how he felt. Being patient tested him, especially when he had to sit out the Oct. 27 opener against New Orleans after taking part in the pregame ceremony celebrating the championship season.

Interim head coach Luke Walton, who admirably led reigning MVP Stephen Curry and the champs in Kerr’s absence, will return to his spot as top assistant and is sure to attract attention as a head coaching candidate immediately when openings emerge. Walton’s father, Bill, broadcast the Arizona-Stanford game on Thursday night for the Pac-12 Networks and offered this message to his son through The Associated Press. ”Tell Luke I love him,” the proud Hall of Famer said.Sports & RecreationGolden State Warriors JerseysSteve Kerrleave of absence

Here’s what the trade market for Dwight Howard looks like

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With the Houston Rockets making calls to gauge interest in former All-Star Dwight Howard, The Vertical takes a look at why it could be hard for them to move the 30-year-old center, some possible trade partners, as well as the specifics of Howard current contract.

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Dwight Howard is averaging 14.6 points and 12 rebounds this season. (Getty Images)The contract
Dwight Howard is in the third year of an $87.5 million contract signed in 2013.

The current cap hit for this season is $22.3 million, plus a trade bonus that is currently $600,000. The Rockets would pay this bonus to Howard if he is traded. For trade purposes, $22.9 million should be the number the Rockets and opposing teams will use.

Although Howard is under contract through 2016-17, he can opt out of his contract by June 29, thus making him an unrestricted free agent.

The Rockets’ trade rules and hard cap situation
Because Houston is a luxury-tax team, the Rockets can only acquire players who are within 125 percent, plus $100,000 of Howard contract.

The Rockets are also hard capped and cannot exceed the $88.74 million threshold the league mandates. Currently the Rockets are $525,000 below the tax apron.

Why it could be hard for Houston to find a partner
Several factors will limit potential trade partners for Howard to a small pool of teams.

Howard has missed over 50 games the past two seasons with a variety of ailments. Although Howard minutes have been high over the past few months, one has to wonder how much longer his body can hold up.

A team acquiring Howard has no assurance he will sign come July. Unless Houston gives permission, teams are not allowed to make contact with Howard.

Factor in that the Rockets also have eyes on All-Star Kevin Durant this summer. Adding additional salary could make it difficult for Houston to create cap space to sign Durant.

It will be hard to make a deal with any Western Conference team above Houston in the playoff race.

The top-five West teams Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs Jerseys, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers do not need a center. Although the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol recently broke his foot, Memphis does not have the picks or assets to get a deal done.

Would Houston try and make a deal with the three teams they are chasing for a playoff berth?

In Dallas, the Mavericks’ Zaza Pachulia has been one of the most improved players this season. Why trade for a player like Howard when the Mavericks can sign him outright this summer. Utah has Rudy Gobert anchoring down low. Trading for a player like Howard does not fit the rebuild the Jazz have gone through the past few years. The Trail Blazers have been the feel-good story this season with their young core of players. Like the Jazz, adding Howard to the mix goes against how the Trail Blazers have rebuilt their team.

The teams in the lottery either do not have the assets to get a deal done or it would not make sense from a roster standpoint to give away future assets. The Nuggets have the players and draft picks to make a deal, but why do it? Denver is out of the playoffs, has built a nice young core with some veterans and will have ample cap room this summer.

So where does that leave the Rockets?

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David Lee’s contract expires at the end of the season. (Getty Images)The team with the players and picks to get a deal done without touching the core would be the Boston Celtics Jerseys.

The Celtics have a treasure chest of draft picks and expiring contracts, something that would benefit the Rockets in the long run.

Here is a look at a hypothetical trade that could work for both teams:

Houston receives
David Lee
Jonas Jerebko
2016 Boston first-round pick
2016 Dallas first-round pick

Boston receives
Dwight Howard
Montrezl Harrell

Although this trade could knock Houston out of the playoff race, the Rockets would be able to add two first-round picks, as well as their own first if they miss the playoffs. The Rockets currently have the 13th pick in this basketball jerseys wholesale year’s draft and will send it to Denver if they make the playoffs. With Lee expiring contract and Jerebko non-guaranteed salary for 2016-17, the Rockets could have close to $27 million in cap space. Good enough for a max salary in free agency.

For the Celtics, the addition of Howard could move them closer to the level of Cleveland and Toronto. Acquiring a player like Howard without moving any of their core pieces would make the Celtics a dangerous out come the spring. The Celtics also would not have to move the unprotected 2016 and 2018 Brooklyn Nets Jerseys first-round picks or Memphis’ future first-rounder.

This deal would not hurt the Celtics in the summer if Howard does decide to walk. Boston would have the same cap space if it would have kept Lee and Jerebko, just minus two first-round picks in the mid 20s.

Aside from Boston, there is a limited amount of teams in the Eastern Conference with the potential to do a deal.

The one team that has plenty of assets and players to make a deal is Toronto. However, center is not a position of need for the Raptors.

A team like Philadelphia that has plenty of picks and cap space now could just sign Howard as a free agent in July. There is no need to risk assets to chase him at the trade deadline.

Two teams fighting for their playoff lives and missing their starting centers are the Chicago Bulls Jerseys and Charlotte Hornets Jerseys.

The Bulls certainly could offer up a package of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and their own first-round pick for Howard. The tough part with this type of trade is that the Bulls are in the luxury tax and would take on additional salary, thus resulting in more luxury taxes. For Houston, the first-round pick could essentially be better than the ones Boston is offering. Although Gibson has been a high-level sixth man for Chicago, the Rockets would have to take on Gibson’s contract for next season.

Charlotte has played some of its best basketball of late and is currently holding onto the last playoff spot in the East. The Hornets could put a package together of Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams and a 2016 first-round pick, protected Nos. 1-10 for Howard. Of the trades mentioned above, this deal makes the most sense for both parties. Obtaining a player like Howard in Charlotte would likely see the Hornets in the playoffs come April. For Houston, the Rockets would still have a chance of making the playoffs while also obtaining a valuable first-rounder. Although injured, Jefferson could be back on the court in early March.

With a limited market and plenty of questions to answer in the next week, trading Dwight Howard is not as easy as it sounds.

The Vertical Insider Bobby Marks is a former longtime assistant general manager with the Nets.

More NBA coverage from The Vertical:

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LaVine eager to prove he’s much more than a dunker

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Not once but twice, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defeated the most remarkable dunkers the NBA could throw at him, beating back the likes of Aaron Gordon, Will Barton, Andre Drummond, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo and Mason Plumlee to win and then defend the Verizon Slam Dunk title at All-Star Weekend.

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What the Timberwolves’ bouncy backcourt player is doing these days, though, is even more challenging: He’s taking on a field of dunk champions and trying to position himself more at the “complete player” end of their spectrum than at the “dunker and done” end.

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I pride myself on definitely being more than a dunker.

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– Wolves’ Zach LaVine

For every Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Kobe Bryant who has participated in and won the competition on All-Star Saturday, there is a Harold Miner, Nate Robinson and Fred Jones, players for whom the dunk contest served as the high points of their NBA careers. The vast majority of winners fall somewhere in between — Cedric Ceballos or Dee Brown might represent the median — and the goal for a young player like LaVine is to gain traction as a solid NBA player, rather than languishing as a one-trick pony.

A pretty stratified group to begin with, it’s even more so when built solely off the contest’s multiple winners. Then it’s Miner and Robinson to the left, Jordan and Wilkins to the right and Jason Richardson defining the middle.

Richardson, the 2002 and ’03 dunk champion, never made an All-Star team. But playing for five teams across 13 seasons, he averaged 17.1 points in 857 games and topped 20.0 points in three seasons. He posted a lifetime PER of 16.3 and precariously ranks 100th in league history for field goals made (7,123).

LaVine, who’ll turn 21 on Thursday, started only 47 times in his first 131 appearances but has locked in of late. Since the All-Star break, he has started nine of Minnesota’s 11 games at shooting guard and averaged 17.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 35.9 minutes while shooting 49 percent overall and 40.7 percent on 3-pointers. He has scored 20 points or more 14 times in 2015-16 compared to 10 last season.

The hand-wringing in the Twin Cities over LaVine’s limitations when used at point guard is over for now. His work at shooting guard has moved Andrew Wiggins into the small forward spot. LaVine boosted his profile and made his name with the sort of aerobatics he only rarely dares in a game — a 360-degree version of which came Monday night against Charlotte — but he knows his worth as an NBA player will be determined below and between the rims.

Play of the Day: Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine gets the outlet and finishes with the highlight, 360 jam to excite the road crowd.

“It’s all how I go for it,” LaVine said in Milwaukee the other night, after the Timberwolves’ 116-101 loss. “I pride myself on definitely being more than a dunker. Younger fans are always going to see that because they haven’t experienced basketball. But I feel like everybody in the NBA knows I’m not just a dunker.”

Against the Bucks, peeved interim coach Sam Mitchell sat out starters Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Ricky Rubio in the fourth quarter, unhappy with their effort. LaVine and Gorgui Dieng escaped that fate, and while LaVine’s defense has extensive scaffolding in place as a work in progress, few in or around the team question the energy or intensity he brings to it.

In fact, there’s a sense that the cool Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 Draft in which LaVine went No. 13, could stand to work and push himself more like his frenetic teammate.

“I’ve always thought I was talented,” LaVine said, “But I’ve prided myself on that. I’ve never seen hard work fail.”

The point vs. shooting guard debate is moot for now, with either Rubio or rookie Tyus Jones next to LaVine through most of his minutes. It dated back to his earlier Wolves days, when the late Flip Saunders had him play the point at the Las Vegas Summer League and felt his charisma and personality could orchestrate teammates even if his decision-making at age 20 was seriously raw.

There was carryover this season, too, that didn’t go so well.

Verizon Slam Dunk: Zach LaVine

The Timberwolves’ Zach LaVine talks about defending his title ahead of the Verizon All-Star Slam Dunk contest.

“He struggled at the beginning of the year,” veteran Tayshaun Prince said, “because we were trying to have him run the team. Early in the year, he couldn’t figure out when to shoot and when to make plays, when to read the game in certain situations. He was thinking too much. Now he’s more relaxed. We’re playing him off the ball more, which is more comfortable for him.”

Mitchell, eager to have his interim tag removed and stick around, has committed himself lately to developing the young guys. Getting the most out of LaVine at the moment means keeping him at the two. Meanwhile, time and strength work will help the 6-foot-5, 189-pounder get stronger, enabling him to cheap basketball jersey push back better as a defender.

“People always think [young players are] going to struggle more offensively,” Mitchell said. “But it’s the defense where they mostly struggle. In college, you may see some pick-and-rolls but you don’t’ see it as often. And you can’t have the quality of players. These guards today are really, really good. They know all the tricks.”

LaVine has the physical attributes — quickness, wingspan — to thrive defensively and just needs experience and trust.

“I think the toughest thing is,” Mitchell said, “when you’re disconnected from your guy, still feeling comfortable that you’re doing the right thing. Because it’s an uncomfortable feeling to come across to the other side of the floor and show and help and bump, and do things you have to do knowing you can still get back to your guy.”

In Minnesota’s hierarchy of promising young players, Wiggins was tabbed to be a future star before he played his first game. Towns came in with lofty expectations and has exceeded most of them. Only LaVine — something of a surprise pick in 2014’s lottery — has the chance to overachieve.

He was thinking too much. Now he’s more relaxed. We’re playing him off the ball more, which is more comfortable for him.

– Wolves’ Tayshaun Prince on LaVine

One thing that might help to keep the native of Renton, Wash., locked in is his status as a Saunders favorite in their year together. The Wolves’ coach and president of basketball operations passed away in October from complications related to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment. But he still has an unseen hand on LaVine’s shoulder.

“It was tough,” LaVine said. “After he drafted me, he gave me a little piece of paper that had my name on it. Said ‘I was going with you all the way if your name still was on the board.’ It’s hard. He made my dream come true. He had very high expectations for me and thought very highly of me. So I don’t want to let him or his family down.

“You’re always going to remember. It’s never going to fade. Time is a little bit like scars. There’s still a little bit of the scar.”

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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