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.