First and foremost, congratulations to Kobe Bryant. Last night he poured in 44 points and became the Lakers all-time leading scorer along the way. Ironically, the player he surpassed, “The Logo” himself, Jerry West, wore the #44 as a member of the Lakers.
Being the Kobe hater I am, I must admit that I got a tiny bit of satisfaction when I found out the Lakers lost to Memphis last night. Of course when I say “tiny bit” I do mean “enormous“. Despite my hatred towards Kobe, I do respect and appreciate his game. Hell, I even admire it. Perhaps no one else in the league rises to the occasion quite like Kobe. The man hits clutch shots in the biggest of moments, so much so that you don’t get overly excited when he delivers. You pretty much expect it to happen.
The talk now, or I should say, “the question” now:
Is Kobe Bryant the greatest Lakers player of all time?
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but my answer is no. I’ll explain why, but I will say this, Kobe still has a lot of game left, and he may very well take over the throne in the future. He’s only 31. But because he’s not quite like the man I have above him off the court, his numbers may not matter, ever.
If greatness is measured by championships, then Magic gets the nod over Kobe. Magic won five championships to Kobe’s four. Even if the standard of greatness was based upon individual awards, Magic has won three MVP’s to Kobe’s one. Magic has won three Finals MVP’s to Kobe’s one. When Magic arrived on to the NBA scene, he was an immediate impact, basically, he was “the man” right off the bat. Magic was the cornerstone to the Lakers franchise during their “Show Time” years, and if anything, was at least equal to Kareem in terms of significance to the franchise, if not more important. When Kobe arrived in LA, he played side kick to Shaq. Shaq deserves a “thank you” card for three of Kobe’s rings.
Magic had Bird. That rivalry transcended basketball, and made both players larger than life. The rivalry added to the lore of both of these legends. Kobe has no one to push him like that on the court, and strengthen his legend. That’s not Kobe’s fault per say, but it does affect his place on the totem pole of Laker greats.
Magic’s most memorable moment, the “junior sky-hook” to defeat the Lakers rival Boston Celtics in pivotal Game 4 of the 1987 Finals is one of the most replayed moments in NBA history. It surpasses all of Kobe’s game winners combined. Kobe’s buzzer-beaters albeit great, have never had the effect Magic’s shot had. It never had the effect Michael’s hanging, double-pump jump shot over Craig Ehlo had, or his push-off, step-back J over Bryon Russell. I don’t believe Kobe has had that one play, career defining moment yet.
If the question is, who is the greatest “Lakers” player of all time, you’d have to consider which player’s image is synonymous with the franchise. That, sometimes has more to do with who you are outside of playing ball.
What makes Magic a better Laker is the fact that he’s a more likable person than Kobe. Kobe’s guarded. He’s a loner. A bit of a weirdo. His personality is a rip-off of Jordan’s. It’s obvious, it’s irritating. Magic was original. Endearing, fun, loving and charming all rolled into one. His smile could light up the stadium, and his persona was equivalent to his nickname, “Magic“.
Magic was loved and praised, in fact, he still is, even if you weren’t or are not a Lakers fan. That is why he is Mr. Laker.