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NBA

Is Kobe The Best Laker Ever? Jerry West And Magic Johnson Think So


Over 30,000 points, five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, and countless other accolades. Kobe Bryant’s resume is pretty impressive. But is he the greatest Laker ever? According to two of the best Lakers ever, yes.

Lakers legend Jerry West summed up his feelings about Kobe, via USA Today:

“What he has accomplished with this team, I don’t think there’s any question in my mind at this point in time – because of him being with this team for his whole career – that he has been the greatest Laker player.”

Um, are we forgetting that Kobe was originally drafted by the Hornets?

Kidding aside, West’s sentiments echoed those of Magic Johnson, who called Kobe the greatest Laker ever Wednesday night on ESPN.

Given their resumes, both should be taken seriously, right? Or are they just blind homers? Remember, Jerry West was actually the Lakers GM who traded for Bryant on draft night way back in 1996. And Magic was part-owner of the Lakers for several years, not to mention the fact that he played for the Lakers his entire career. Plus he’s a point guard, so it’s his natural inclination to hand one more assist to another Laker lifer.

There’s no denying the fact that Kobe Bryant is one of the top 10 players of all time (I have him behind Jordan, Magic, Bird, Russell, Shaq, Kareem, and Duncan, and just ahead of Wilt and Hakeem). But I don’t see how anyone could call him the best Laker ever. Consider the following:

1. Kobe single-handedly broke up a Laker dynasty and plunged the franchise into mediocrity for three seasons during the prime of his career (2004-2007).
2. During those years, he put up the best individual numbers of his career while surrounded by garbage players like Smush Parker, Stanislav Medvedenko, and Luke Walton.
3. Though he has always been one of the best players in the league, he has only been the undisputed best player in the league for just one year of his career (though it should be two — in hindsight, I don’t think anyone thinks Steve Nash should have won the ’05-’06 MVP instead of Kobe).

Not to take away from Kobe at all; he is a great player and undoubtedly the second best shooting guard of all time, bested only by Michael Jordan.

But to say he is the best Laker of all time is just plain crazy talk, even if the claim is coming from the actual best Laker of all time. Sorry, Magic, but you are the best Laker ever. And I’m not even sure I’d put Kobe above Shaq.

Still, though. Good problem to have if you’re a Lakers fan. Every team should have so much trouble deciding who is their most legendary player among so many legends that have worn their uniform.

[Slam Online]



  • jess

    Kobe single handedly broke up the Lakers dynasty? I forgot how easy going shaq was… the guy wanted 30 million to come in camp fat and out of shape, and would call out the owner while playing on the court… not a good article at all.

  • jess

    and btw the mvp doesn’t mean your the undisputed best player in the leauge… that award is chosen by sports journalists, most of which have their own one sided opinion and agenda, and considering this article, im sure your not the only completely unqualified journalist out there.
    .. Kobe has been the best player in the league for most of his career.

  • Anonymous

    You need to relax. I like Kobe Bryant. But there’s not way he’s been the best player in the league for most of his career. He’s been consistently one of the top 5 players in the league, but the best players in the league while Kobe has been around have been Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Shaq, LeBron, etc. Kobe is great, but he hasn’t been “the best player” all that often.

  • Anonymous

    Phil Jackson retired because of Kobe, not because of Shaq. The Lakers traded Shaq because Kobe wanted him gone. No doubt that Shaq’s work ethic should have been better, but if Kobe had waited his turn, the Lakers never would have broken up that team.

  • Eric Reed

    Joe your article sums up what the conversation that me and a friend just had regarding you guys ( so called media ) and Kobe. Most of you guys in the beginning said Kobe wouldn’t be great, then he’s great you guys say he’s not as good as whoever. Now you admit he’s a top player but nothing more. You are out of your freaking mind placing Tim Duncan higher than Kobe. You have no insight as to who broke up the Lakers, yours is a tired old mistruth. Fact is Jerry West and Magic know a hell of a lot more about basketball than you. Also go read what Jordan himself has said about Kobe. My opinion is Kobe is a top 3 player in the history behind Jordan, possibly Wilt. I am not a Kobe lover but a Basketball lover in general. Kobe hate runs deep I understand that, but you are talking about a guy who scores 60 something points against dallas with 5 1/2 minutes left in the 3rd! And MVP’s Kobe should have had more than 1 more than 2, at least 3.

  • Eric Reed

    True

  • Eric Reed

    Wrong

  • Anonymous

    You sound like someone who has played one too many basketball video games. There’s more to the game than stats, son. Why do you think everyone ranks Bill Russell higher on the “greatest of all time” list than Wilt Chamberlain?

    I don’t hate Kobe at all (I’m actually a Kobe fan), but nice attempt at trying to paint me as a hater.

    As far as whether or not Kobe broke up the Lakers, I’ll let you Google that one.

  • joe

    You’re so misinformed its a little sad. Time to look for a new job because everything written in this article is purely fiction. I hear fox is looking for new sports writers and maybe they could hire you the
    y already have a few other people who suck at their jobs on payroll you’ll fit in well.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your input.

  • Peta

    Kevin Garnett? Now I know you are a hater. Kobe was the undisputed best player from 2006-2009. He was always top 3 best from 2001 till now. Also how you going to say Shaq is a greater Laker then Kobe when has done more for the franchise and been there twice as long. Admit it you are a hater cause your ariticle has that written all over it.

  • Peta

    Shaq left because he wanted a 30 mil/ year contract and Jerry Buss didnt want to give it to a declining big man. It was the best move the Lakers made because that 30 mil over 5 years would have put Lakers in mediocrity for 5 years. Lakers rebuild and went from the worst roster to NBA champs in 4 years.

  • Cy

    Joe Levine – Kobe ahead of Wilt Chamberlain? Are you kidding me? You lost any credibility after that assessment. And to say that Shaq was a greater Laker, even though he only played 8 seasons with the Lakers (only 2-3 of them where he was really great) is another zinger that should be held against you.

  • Scarface2012

    Joe Levine, Kobe has a better career and legacy than Shaq or Duncan period. I’d have Kobe in my top 5 of all time behind MJ,Magic,Bird,and just ahead of Dream.Kareem,Russell,Wilt and Oscar are after them. If Kobe keep setting other records he could move past Magic and Bird as well. So right now, I’d have Kobe at #4.

    Shaq wanted that huge contract after the Lakers lost in 2004 and still wanted to be the leader when he was out of shape and declining. The Lakers went with the upcoming prime superstar player in Kobe instead of the out of shape and immature Shaq.

    Shaq isn’t better than Hakeem Olajuwon either. Shaq played for how many franchises? Got swept in the finals in 1995.Underachieved for clearly being the best center for a decade. ONLY 4 rings? Look at the teams Shaq tried to chase titles with? He went to Miami that had D. Wade. He went to the Suns team with Nash and Amare. He went to Cleveland that had Lebron. He went to Boston where they had KG,Pierce,Allen,and Rondo. Shaq played for the Celtics, am I reading that correctly. After knowing all that joe: safe to say Kobe has the better career and legacy than Shaq.

    Kobe is breaking all type of records set by laker legends.

    Kobe has a very strong argument as being the greatest laker of all time.

  • Anonymous

    Hard to argue without knowing how many additional rings the Lakers would have won if Kobe had waited his turn and not pissed off Shaq, Phil, etc.

  • Anonymous

    You rank Wilt ahead of Kobe? Am I reading that right? I don’t think anyone would agree with you there.

    As for Shaq being only really great for 2-3 seasons as a Laker; he was 1st team All-NBA for 7 years as a Laker. He has 3 rings as a Laker. He has 1 MVP (should be more) as a Laker. What more did he have to do to be considered a Laker great? Eight years is plenty long to spend with a team to be considered one of their legends, especially if you won multiple rings for them. Ask Knick fans if they consider John Starks to be a Knicks legend. He only spent 8 years in New York and actually lost a championship for them.

  • Anonymous

    Hard to rip Shaq for winning “only” 4 rings when he played during Tim Duncan’s prime. Shaq was great, but don’t forget Tim Duncan is the best power forward of all time.

    Also, you’re comparing Shaq’s twilight to Kobe’s prime. Not very fair, don’t you think?

  • Average Joe

    Horribly written and misinformed… Tim Duncan is as great as he is because of the talent he played with and the coach he has had….Any normal NBA fan can realize how the talent of big men have depleted. Through the 80′s and 90′s the bigs ruled the NBA and most GMs and owners thought that you cannot win without a skilled big man (Ex: Look at all the number 1 draft picks though out the 80′s and 90s). Duncan is in an era with bigs that are not so great anymore. There is a reason why Shaq couldnt win in the finals before he got with the Lakers, not only did he partner up with Kobe but the talent of which he was facing was depleting. I understand that this is all opinionated however you should look as some facts about Kobe before hating on him (just like the mentally insane, you might not realize your statements are crazy but somebody has to tell you)..Kobe as a Laker Ranks: First in Total Points, Minutes/Games played, Steals, Most Points in a Season by a Laker ever, most points in a Quarter/Half/Three Quarters/ Full Game by any Laker ever, Most Championships (tied with Magic and Kareem) as a Laker, Most playoff appearances by a Laker, Second in total Assists, 8th in total Blocks (still climbing), 5th in Total Rebounds(still climbing). That’s just regular season achievements, he also has many playoff records and has the most Gold medals by any Laker all time..
    Kobe is probably last in one category and that LIKEABILITY…him and Kareem are probably the most hated Laker players all time but you shouldnt hold that against him

  • Average Joe

    Also, as for who broke up the Lakers, Kobe does not own or manage the Lakers. He is not the one that traded or chose not to pay Shaq. That you have to take up with ownership and cannot or should not blame on a player. The bottom line, management made a choice and so far Kobe has brought two additional rings while Shaq won one and is now retired. If you do the simple math, seems to me they made the right decision. Furthermore, you are not taking into account the competition to which Kobe has to (had to) play against. You state that during Kobe’s career there were many stars and that he was the undisputed best maybe once or twice, this in return is also a testament to his greatness and he was able to win 5 rings even with the greater competition he was facing. Other than MJ, I have never seen another player be compared to so much, first Vince, then TMac, Grant Hill, Agent Zero, AI, Dwade, Lebron and countless others and yet the guy is still standing strong 17+years leading the league in scoring and is Top 5 PER efficiency… that my friend is the best Laker ever

  • Jordan Lawson

    This article is horrible… This kind of sounds like a Kobe hater stating his opinions and putting it into an article…. It’s your opinion that Bryant has not been the best player for most of his career… And it’s your opinion that he is not the greatest Laker ever… If Jerry West and Magic think so, does ur opinion really matter?? Didn’t think so…

    To me, Kobe was the best player in basketball in 2002-03, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and you could argue he is currently the best player in the NBA, and if his Laker team did not go thru so much drama at the start of the season (3 different coaches, Steve Nash injury, Pau Gasol injury) his Lakers would have a much better record, probably top 3 in the west and top 5 in the NBA and he’d be the no doubt MVP and probably the best player.

  • Anonymous

    As someone who has watched the Lakers from the 70s to the present… I completely agree with you about Magic Johnson being the greatest Laker of all-time. He and Larry Bird transformed the league in the 80s. While Kobe’s stats might be gaudy… Magic made that team go and he made other people around him better. No one ran a fast break as consistently great and as exciting as Magic did. Those 80s teams were truly the golden years and in my mind the best Laker teams of all time too.

    My four greatest Lakers would be 1. Magic Johnson. 2 Kobe Bryant. 3. Jerry West 4. Kareem Abdul Jabber

    I believe Michael Jordan was the greatest player of all-time. Kobe is not in Jordan’s league. I hate saying that being a lifelong Lakers fan but from everything I have observed it seemed that Kobe lacked the consistency of Jordan. And he is nowhere near what Jordan was defensively despite having a few good defensive years.

  • TryAgainOrNever

    Shaq ahead of Kobe,… is it a joke? you mean 5 rings with lakers to 3 rings? ok I know you’ll gonna talk about kobe was not “THE MAN” when he won that 3peat but dude you can’t take away the fact that Kobe was a big or maybe the biggest factor why the Lakers won that 3 rings especially at the 3rd one. and Wilt is behind Kobe?. its MJ Russel Wilt Kareem, you cant touch that big 4 dude. maybe Kobe is a close 6 or 7, but still Kareem is the best laker there is.

    Kareem Magic Kobe Wilt Shaq

  • http://twitter.com/LJ6_VVICKER_CR7 Michelle

    So are u saying Michael Jordan’s MVPPPPPPPSSSSSSS doesnt mean anything?

  • steve

    no, you are a hater.

  • steve

    MVP is the best player on the best team.
    Even when lebron won MVP he was saying Kobe was the best player in the league.
    You cannot disregard Magic Johnsons opinion like that! He played the game, in THE league, and is THE man. Your opinion doesn’t matter. Magic’s does.

  • Michel

    You totally lost me by saying that Kobe hasnt even surpassed Shaq as a better Laker.

    like seriously, WTF??

    and How is #2 even a valid arguement against kobe. so because he had a bad suporting cast during his prime takes away from his greatness?
    And if you really believe that Kobe was the only reason for this breakup, then u clearly havent done your research, journalist. smh. (not saying that he wasnt a major part, dont twist it)

    Kobe could have just as easily been MVP for the 2003 season as well. He got robbed plenty, and at the end of the day “journalists” like you will use that against him because he lacks certain awards.

    He could have easily been given the 6th man award in his second season and the MIP as well.
    All this is debatable, but fact is, he got robbed plenty, (not just by nash) and to say its crazy to put kobe up as the best laker, now that is crazy (and big time disrespectful) time to stop making the past untouchable and unreachable. Its getting old.

  • Michel

    Shaq wanted a max contract and went nuts on dr buss. he most probably couldnt stand the fact that kobe has become the better player and gotten more money. dont act as if shaq didnt have a big ego that hurt this whole breakup.

  • Michel

    and besides…kobe waiting his turn?? it was his turn. he waited 8 yrs. he clearly surpassed shaq as the better player. something, shaq most probably couldnt handle and didnt want to except. Its easy to assume, like u did, that we dont know how many titles there could have been, but looking at how shaq did beyond the lakers yrs, it wouldnt have looked very promising with shaq. btw. u keep ignroing the fact that shaq also had a bad breakup with wade, and that followed with a bad ending with nash. but blame kobe. thats the easy way

  • Michel

    you know what. even if there have been many years with a player better than kobe. Kobe has always been #1 to #5 all those years. no other player outside of lebron can say that through all those yrs.(talking about Kobes era now, not before) and that itself puts him back up a couple of ranks on the all time list. rather be top 3 for over a decade than best player twice and then fall of outside the top 10 of best players or worse. Kobe has been consistant, something very very few 17yr vets can say and show for. yet another acomplishement that gets completely overlooked.

  • Michel

    he is one of those “i really like kobe and all, but he isnt that great, but still a legend” type undercover haters, who claim to post objectively, but are full of hate. just trying to sell it nicely

  • Michel

    shaq only has 6 all nba 1st as a laker, how many does kobe have? doesnt he have the most ever for that matter? tied with someone else? shaq has one mvp as a laker, and deserves more,true. how many does koeb have? and does he deserve more? kobe has more rings, has done it back to back with less help than the 3peat had to offer, and while kobe wasnt just a sidekick to shaq, besides what haters love to say, shaq was just a sidekick for wade. Kobe dropped MVP numbers throughout those playoffs (not in 2000, but in 01 and 02), especially during the historical 15-1 run.

  • Michel

    Kobe played during duncans prime. whats the point?

  • Michel

    and shaq’s twilgiht came quicker as was necessary because of his workethic. look at kobe now. still dropping buckets, getting career high assists and schooling the youngsters on a regular basis. Workethic, yet another thing that kobe doesnt get enough credit for. and now watch him come back form achiles strong and add to his legacy. still, wont be enough to convince ppl like you of his superior greatness, not even above shaq. smh

  • Slic Ric

    U also have to take into consideration Jordan was in league 7 years b4 he wins a ring all those years magic dominated until 91 when magics team was injured n old n full of 2bit rookies did Jordan win so Jordan for at least 1st 7 years he wasn’t even best in league go figure! Kareem has points Mvps n rings that top Jordan or match if that’s what ur looking for and basically every other stat as well but if ur looking all around well I’m sorry magic owns that!!!!!!

  • Slic Ric a

    Maybe wins at sneaker sales but if it wasn’t for magic n a lil bird and then enter a $ man like stern who absolutely wrecked NBA Jordan would b selling converse instead if Nike

  • George

    Realize I’m replying late here…but just had to after reading the “single-handedly” comment. I’ll admit you do a great job of backing some of your other arguments but that comment along with putting Shaq above Kobe reveals an underlying bias. Shaq may have won the Finals MVPs those years after epic battles with Rik Smits and Jason Collins, but Kobe was equally (if not more) instrumental in getting the Lakers there. Shaq made his own bed after cursing out the owner to lobby for an undeserved contract extension. It should be obvious that Kobe was the right choice considering that Shaq was already an obvious option #2 (behind Wade) only 1 year into his extension. Let’s not forget that contract (even after Shaq agreed to a lesser amount than he originally demanded Buss) became such an albatross that it was dumped to another team twice before it expired. Shaq has a history of burning bridges everywhere he lands; he feuded at some point with Penny and Wade and if you followed the Suns and Cavs during his days there, he didn’t exactly get along well with either Nash or Lebron either. He’s also insulted the towns of Orlando and Los Angeles after his departure. There’s a reason he played for six teams and Kobe will retire a Laker-for-life. And finally, I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s ever played for the Celtics can never be considered a greater Laker than Kobe.


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