Everyone is always looking “the Next” ... the next Kobe Bryant, the next Michael Jordan, yes, the next Kevin Durant. Nets fans would argue there may never be a next KD, not the way he’s going at 34! But others with a broader worldview will point to France and Victor Wembanyana, the 7’4” darling of tankers everywhere.
Not that long ago, like two years, the “next Kevin Durant” was either Chet Holmgren the Minnesota seven-footer (who’s out for the season) or Emoni Bates from Michigan, a 6’10” teenager with all the prerequisites for a Durant comparison: long, skinny, multi-level scorer with a killer crossover and court vision. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and won the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year in 2020,
There were YouTube videos comparing one’s moves to the other’s...
But it didn’t work out that way. Holmgren surpassed him in scouts’ eyes in comparisons between the two “nexts.” Then, after landing at Memphis as the youngest player in NCAA Division 1, things went further south. As a promising season turned tough, Penny Hardaway moved Bates to point guard and he struggled. He and Hardaway didn’t mesh. Then there were injuries to his finger and his lower back. Finally, three months ago, after transferring to Eastern Michigan near his home, he was arrested on felony charges of carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. All of which is a long way of saying, Emoni Bates still needs all the help he can get.
That may have been the low point. In last couple of weeks, he’s been reinstated to the EMU Eagles and is playing well, his gun charge has been reduced with a guilty plea plus probation. His record could even be expunged if he doesn’t have any other issues.
Enter Kevin Durant, not a “next” one, but the very current and very much Kevin Durant Durant, As Vince Goodwill of Yahoo! Sports and a Detroit native, writes Tuesday, KD and Kyrie Irving met with Bates under the stands Little Caesars’ Arena following the Nets-Pistons thriller Sunday night. It was a way to encourage Bates as he tries to make his way again.
“I like that he’s going the total opposite route in life,” Durant told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill. “Leaving school early, transferring from Memphis, got arrested. Went through some s***. You gotta go through some s*** in this life to truly understand where you are.
“He’s playing good ball right now. He’s been through some s***. He’s a little more grounded.”
Durant didn’t get into details on what else he might have told Bates who was accompanied by his father to the meet-up, but KD thinks being home, surrounded by family and friends, could be a big help.
“He’s at home. He’s got a support system,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “It could be worse when you’re away from home, and you don’t have that influence around you, and you’re running behind some other dudes. It’s good to see him balling out right now.”
In photos taken of the meeting, Bates is beaming, maybe even awestruck, as he stands between the Nets superstars with his father...
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant with Emoni Bates ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/0Zs49xGbPl— Brooklyn Netcast (@BrooklynNetcast) December 20, 2022
Despite what sounds like a very long road behind him, Emoni Bates is still only 18 years old. He’ll be 19 by the NBA Draft in June but as of now, he’s not even listed as a first rounder ... after being ranked No. 1 or 2 coming out of high school. There’s no predicting where he’ll be after finishing this season at Eastern Michigan, but the Nets currently have the 76ers first rounder and a second rounder likely to be around 50. And as we know, both Durant and Irving have offered their opinions on draft picks before. Right, Cam Thomas?
No matter where he winds up, Bates — like everyone else — will have a hard time fulfilling the promise of being the “next Kevin Durant” but he knows now that has the current Kevin Durant rooting for him.
- Kevin Durant on once-heralded NBA prospect Emoni Bates’ path: ‘You gotta go through some s***’ - Vincent Goodwill - Yahoo! Sports