Blogtable: Is Kobe the greatest Laker ever?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Favorite Kobe moment? | Should Kobe do Rio? | Greatest Kobe feat? | Greatest Laker ever?



VIDEOPlayers around the league show their appreciation for Kobe Bryant

> Is Kobe the greatest Laker of all time?  Explain.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comOne’s first duty in answering any question of this sort is to be protective of the predecessors, whether it’s a ’68 Mustang supposedly being eclipsed by the 2015 model or in this case, Kobe Bryant elbowing ahead of Jerry West and Magic Johnson. It’s hard to argue against “The Logo,” one of the best and classiest acts in NBA history, but Bryant – with his rings, his stats totals and his MVP trophy – has climbed higher among the game’s notables, which moves him past West as a swell Laker. I’m holding firm on Johnson, though, as the face of that franchise. We can quibble about the “greatest” definition, but Johnson was remarkable as a 6-foot-9 point guard who helped revive both the Lakers and the league with his team play and his smile. He also is my point guard on any by-position all-time team I put together and Bryant is a backup. So that splits my final hair here.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: You can put him in the conversation and I’ll listen. But Kareem and Magic are at the top of my list. One is the all-time leading NBA scorer with six MVPs and the other was the spark that lit the flame on five championship teams, nine Finals appearances in 12 years and began the modern era of the Lakers as the league’s most dominant franchise.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Jerry West is. He was a star as a player and a star as a general manager. It would be hard to find anyone who  impacted any organization in any sport so much. West had massive roles in championships on different levels. He coached the team as well. There is no reason to diminish anything Kobe has accomplished. But “The Logo” is the greatest Laker.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Magic Johnson is No. 1. Kareem is No. 2 only because he spent a chunk of his prime in Milwaukee. Then Kobe. By giving Kobe the nod over Jerry West and Elgin Baylor speaks plenty about the brilliance of Kobe’s career, because Elgin and Jerry were certainly no slouches (from what I understand; they were before my time). Kobe got buckets, was clutch and raised his game in the post-season. And aside from injuries, he was all that for two decades.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: He’s clearly on the short list, but I can’t put him ahead of Magic Johnson, who was the most important player on all five championship teams he played on, had one of the three greatest Finals performances of all-time (1980, Game 6), and was obviously more of a galvanizing force for the Lakers, making his teammates better. I’ll always wonder if Kobe could have won more if he trusted his teammates just a little bit more.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNo. 1? Wow. That’s a tough one. I can’t go there, though, having lived through the Showtime Lakers era and seeing the impact Magic had on not only Lakers fans, but fans everywhere. Kobe’s right up there among the franchise’s greatest players ever, and perhaps even a 1A to Magic, but I can’t give him that No. 1 spot ahead of Magic.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I’m going to say that Kobe rates No. 1, based on his longevity and the fact that he never had so much talent around him as Magic Johnson had in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo, Byron Scott and the rest. Kobe led from a more vulnerable position, in a league that was more competitive top-to-bottom.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think he’s top three. To me, the top trio is Kobe, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And within that trio, I’d have Kareem third. Magic and Kobe may each have five titles, but when you consider their places in history, Magic came into the NBA at a time when it was struggling, and he helped transform it into the international behemoth it is today. Purely as a basketball player, Kobe may retire with the better career numbers, but being a Laker isn’t only what happens on the court. And in that sense, to me I don’t know if anyone will ever surpass Magic.

67 Comments

  1. Mark from Bayarea says:

    Kobe needs to retire while everyone is clapping for him.
    After this season, we will hear lots of Boos.

  2. Dannn says:

    Kobe is at the very least top two greatest Lakers ever. Magic is number 1 and then he’s 2nd. Kareem, Shaq do NOT qualify. Kareem spent a huge chunk of his career in milwaukee, Shaq played for about 1 billion teams including the Celtics, the suns and the Heat. Out of the running automatically. Neither does Jerry West because Kobe was an infinitely better player than West. As such, only Magic has a legitimate claim to being a great Laker than Kobe Bryant. He spent his entire career in Los Angeles, he’s won five titles in L.A and he did a lot for the sport and for the city at the time. As such, he just edges it.

  3. Naja khoury says:

    Man that’s hard to compare between kobe and magic ! Magic had kareem (he had top 3 center of all time ) kobe had pau and shaq . Kobe raised his game in clutch times . Magic is 5-4 with the finals , kobe is 5-2 . I’m taking kobe over magic cz he dropped 81 points as the 2nd greatest scoring performance ever! Kobe is great might be the greatest because of his flawles technique . his footwork , his jumpshot , his mentality , his leadership…

  4. Paul says:

    Wow this is a weird one. Most people don’t even think Kobe is the best Laker ever, but some people put him in the debate for greatest player ever!!

    I grew up with basketball in the 90s so find it hard to relate to players before then. I would chose Magic as the face of the Lakers and we all know who the greatest shooting guard of all time who played for the bulls was. Kobe is top 5-10 best player ever. Had a lot going for him but at the same time some key ingredients were missing

  5. Kal says:

    people acting as if Kobe destroyed the Lakers … are no doubt the same ones who believe LeBron failed the Heat or Cavs in 2014/2015…

    there would be no Lakers mystique today without Kobe.

    people gotta wake up: the NBA is a business and sometimes the managers fail the players — Riley failed to shore up the aging Heat roster and similarly Mitch Kupchak and Buss JR. failed to keep the party going in L.A. … Kobe kept balling hard as everything came crashing down around him in 2013…

  6. Nico says:

    Dwight Howard…

  7. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    If Magic says Kobe is the greatest Laker of all time then Kobe’s the greatest Laker of all time. He has 5 rings same as Magic.

  8. notbias says:

    Thats funny how people judge things of this nature. Name a Superstar wing player that has ever came into the league that Kobe was NOT given the task to lock down. For some reason people forget just how valuable Kobe was on BOTH ends of the floor. Nobody ever brings up Kobe having to guard Kevin Garnett for long stretches during the Timberwolves/Lakers playoff matches. Nobody remembers Kobe hold in Tracy McGrady to 3points in the second half of a game that Tracy was bound to have 50…and Kobe did it with his right arm injured. Nobody remembers how Kobe held Allen Iverson to 0 points in the second half of a game. What about when Vince Carter was a force…..who took on the task of locking him up? Ray Allen…Paul Pierce….LeBron James….the list goes on. No other superstar including Jordan had the task of locking down the best perimeter players as well as perform at a high level offensively. Magic did not have the type of career Kobe had, and he himself said Kobe is number 1. And trust me….Magic has the more qualified court vision.

    • Unknown22 says:

      As someone who’s watched nearly every Lakers playoff game from the late 90s til the present, I’ve never seen Kobe guard KG. Kobe is a guard and KG is a power forward. When the Lakers and T-Wolves were matched in the playoffs, Karl Malone guarded KG in the series and Robert Horry. That was the year KG won MVP. Other times KG was guarded by Robert Horry, Horace Grant, and Madsen. And in the finals against the Sixers, it was ONLY Fisher and Lue guarding Iverson. I watched every minute of that playoff series. Kobe used to be a great defensive player but he didn’t guard KG or AI for long stretches of time. People forget how much trouble Paul Pierce gave him in the 2 years they played in the Finals. But I think Kobe is the 4th greatest Laker after Magic, Kareem, and the Logo.

  9. Magic-Kareem-Kobe-Shaq-West-Worthy-Chamberlain-Baylor- Goodrich- Mikan

  10. sports fan says:

    6) Magic is 5-4 in the finals. He’s the best Laker leader ever & makes everyone around him better. And who did he lose to? Dr J, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, & MJ. The Pistons & Celtics teams that Kobe lost to don’t compare to the teams that Magic lost to. Magic also had to deal with AIDS. And about him saying that Kobe is the greatest Laker – that doesn’t mean that Kobe is. That actually says a lot more about Magic’s character. There’s nothing but many positive reasons to support why Magic is the greatest Laker ever. There are less postive reasons for Kobe plus the many negative reasons for why he’s not the greatest.

  11. sports fan says:

    5) Kobe is 5-2 in the finals. He was fighting with Shaq on a stacked squad that had Karl Malone & Gary Payton & they should’ve won that finals. Kobe was selfish & disrupted the chemistry whereas the Pistons displayed nothing but the opposite. When Kobe became the leader they then lost to the Celtics. Kobe may have the stats but it’s not all about that.

  12. erniehndz says:

    Magic Johnson is the Greatest Laker Ever!

  13. I think Magic Johnson is the greatest all around player not only in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers but in the storied and elustrious history of the NBA. Kobe Bryant is definetly the 2nd greatest Laker and argurably one of the Top 10 players in NBA history. The Lakers are one of the greatest and most storied franchises in not only the NBA but in all of team sports. Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Shaquille O’neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, James Worthy etc..

  14. sports fan says:

    Kobe is not the greatest Laker ever for many reasons.
    1) his accused rape case is the biggest black mark
    2) he chased out Shaq
    3) he’s not the best Laker leader & doesn’t make everybody around him better
    4) there is no unanimous agreement among Lakers fans on who’s the greatest Laker

  15. taekayo says:

    Magic
    Kareem
    West
    Shaq
    Kobe

  16. cracykid says:

    Magic
    Kareem
    Wilt Chamberlain
    Kobe
    Roy Hibbert

  17. Ishcabibble says:

    Magic is the best laker ever by far… Kobe may be 2nd or 3rd, Kareem Abdul Jabbar might be better

  18. michael k says:

    Kareem is the best laker of all time no matter he played for the bucks before.

  19. rasmrock says:

    If you want individual stats, Kareem is your man followed by Kobe. If you want team stats, Magic Johnson all day long. He made Kareem better along with Big game James. For Kobe, if had not been for Fisher, Horrey, Shaq, Gasol, and World Peace, Kobe would be ringless. Each one of these guys hit the key Game winners that propelled the Lakers forward to championships. Oh how we forget about the guys who do their jobs while the ego’s take their glory.

  20. Chucks Santiago says:

    If you’re looking for basketball greats it’s Magic, Kareem, Jerry West, James Worthy, Michael Cooper then Kobe. His scoring, not on par with Kareem’s, was basically what he brought to the table. Played very little defense, especially after Shaq left. Never elevated his team’s performance. Not a great leader, unable to play multiple positions if needed (maybe this year?). If he played for a lesser franchise he might be considered GOAT but if you judge him by the greats the Lakers have had I wouldn’t put him in the top five even.

  21. jazzrealx says:

    1. Kobe
    2. Magic
    3. Kareem
    4. Shaq
    5. Worthy

    Now if you look at that list, Magic played with two of the top 5 Lakers ever. Kobe did it with Shaq, then with Pau. But he didn’t nearly have the same amount of help Magic had. Plus skill wise, you have to go with Kobe.

  22. Fred says:

    People say Michael jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player in the world. Those same people also say Kobe Bryant is the closest to MJ… So wouldn’t that make Kobe the 2nd greatest ever?????? So to put magic in front is to say magic was greater than jordan

  23. I actually think kobe is number one. Although people say he is a ball hog and such, you cant help to admire how easy he makes the game look even at his age he is at now! This is just an opinion question but he is number one!

  24. primo says:

    20 years and only one MVP says a lot in any discussion about Kobe as “the greatest”

    • SilentDoc says:

      Seriously, is MVP trophy a factor ?? Steve Nash has twice the MVPs Kobe has … that just shows how ridiculous that trophy is. Not to mention ’08 MVP for Lebron when compared to Kobe ….

  25. en. says:

    Kobe is the goat ….IN LAKER WORLD LETS MOVE ON SMH

  26. VI says:

    I think the term “Greatest” is referring to the man’s skills. When people rate professional athletes, they rank them based on their performance, and nothing else. To that respect, Kobe clearly wins. He is the most skilled, greatest winner, has the most records… He’s the greatest Laker of all time and when the others in question (Jerry West, Magic Johnson) and even Shaq all say that as well, I think we should all just shut up and listen.

  27. joe says:

    Magic..Kobe..Wilt..west.. worthy

  28. CLIFF C says:

    @Javier…

    Agree.. Kobe at 5 behind Shaq.. Kobe is Shaq’s Robin..

  29. Osler says:

    This is too easy of a question. It comes down to Magic and Kobe, and Magic himself (not to mention The Logo as well) has called Kobe the greatest Laker ever many a time. That’s enough of an endorsement for me.

  30. Doesn't make the Top 3 says:

    And the funny part: for the first time, Kobe won’t be GLOATing. Love it.

  31. Lord Kayson says:

    Greatest Laker can’t be a quiter or accused rapist when you take your ball and go home see Suns playoff you can’t be greatest player from greatest franchise in basketball .Shaq goes on patrol with cops Kobe is a perp is this really a question were asking?Really?

    • Thekid777 says:

      How u figure? When did Kobe EVER QUIT? NOT ONCE. PLUS Kobe is closest ever to MJ. SO how is any laker better? Magic had Kareem and James worthy. 2 top 50 greatest.

  32. AJ says:

    Magic, Kareem, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, George Mikan, then maybe Kobe.

  33. harriethehawk says:

    Magic Johnson will always be the face of the Fakers.

  34. KB24 says:

    Anybody who says that Kobe is not in the argument is crazy. 1) you can’t count Kareem,Wilt,or Shaq they played for other teams. They didn’t even start their careers with the Lakers. So they are eliminated. 2) So that leaves Magic and West to debate about. West has done a lot but we are talking on the court. And he doesn’t even compare. So he’s out. That leaves Magic who has the same amount of titles. So we have to look at other statistics. Kobe has more points, regular season games and minutes and more playoff games and minutes. He has more wins (regular season and playoffs). And not to mention Magic himself has given him that title. So I say Kobe is the greatest Laker.

    • Mac says:

      Couldn’t have said it better. Everyone argues the impact of magic had which is very true, but stat wise and impact as a player it goes to kobe.

    • AlleigHoops says:

      So Karl malone isnt the greatest Jazz player because he played somewhere else?
      Jordan isnt the greatest Bull because he played for the Wizards.

      That’s some real great logic there Mac and Kobe

  35. Lord Kayson says:

    Kobe Bryants refusal to shoot the ball in the Phoenix playoff series to prove a point makes it impossible to give him the top spot.Shaq wasn’t there long enough neither was Wilt.Magic then the Logo.Kobe (3) but anyone who refuses to do whats best for there team and organization and puts there own selfish needs first doesn’t deserve the right to be held in this level of esteem.Not to mention the rape allegation which should disqualify him from this debate anyway.

  36. The Angry Buddhist says:

    Kobe’s too much of a selfish whiner to be put ahead of Kareem, Magic and West.

  37. Jim Muncy says:

    He is possibly the best and possibly the worst. His contributions as a player no-doubt had a huge positive impact on the Lakers, possibly more than any other’s play on the court. But his attitude and off the court behavior did more to cost the Lakers championships than any other player too. When he chased off Shaq, that cost LA championships (maybe as many as four). If he would have worked with rather than against Shaq, it is possible that the streak of championships for the Lakers could have rivaled the mighty Celtics of Bill Russell. Without Kobe, the five that the Lakers won from 20000 to 2010 wouldn’t have been even remotely possible and that perhaps make his the greatest. But without his antics of chasing out Shaq, the Lakers of that period could have been a dynasty talked about for decades like we still talk about the mighty Celtics. His could get the award for both the best and the worst.

  38. Van says:

    The longevity, and holding much of the known Laker records, and receiving the nod from the Laker greats I would say Kobe is the number one Laker.

  39. Mark says:

    Big man #33 is the best player period. He is the best that ever played.

  40. Joe Vancil says:

    As a person who isn’t a Laker fan at all, and actually more of a “Laker Hater” than anything, I’d sum it up this way:

    It was easy to cheer against Kobe Bryant, and easy to hate the Lakers because of him. And when a team beat the Lakers, I thought to myself, “Serves Kobe Bryant right.”

    It was not easy to cheer against Magic Johnson, and while I may have been sick of every game shown on TV on Sundays being a Laker game, the fact is that I couldn’t entirely HATE the Lakers. And when a team beat the Lakers, I thought to myself, “That team should thank their lucky stars.”

    The fact is that the Magic Johnson (and crew) Lakers were good for basketball as a whole, and as a fan of the game first, I cannot take that away from them. Therefore, if this was my team, and I wanted a player who represented the best of what the Los Angeles Lakers are, I’d take Magic Johnson.

    Also, let me be clear: I started watching pro basketball in 1979 (year of the Sonics championship). I have no perspective on Jerry West as a player; to me, he’s a GM, and a darn good one. I really cannot argue his upside/downside compared to Bryant.

    And let’s not leave out another person I’ve not seen mentioned, because this guy goes down as one of my most-respected figures in Laker history: legendary broadcaster Chick Hearn. And, of course, there’s Jerry Buss, the late owner.

    Would Kobe Bryant have been what he was without the Laker mystique created by the organization long before he got there? I don’t know. But that alone speaks to the greatness of this franchise, when you have SO MANY folks who have created the mystique around the franchise, and when you see how it has fallen under Bryant’s leadership, I think that has to be a bit of a black mark on his resume of being the greatest Laker ever.

  41. Bobblehead says:

    Great player, yes but never really seems like a good teammate and I think that counts for a lot. With what we’ve heard from other teammates past I’d give him the 4 spot. Not saying he’s not an HOF’er, great player, but its a team sport soooo….. Magic, Kareem, West, Kobe, Baylor

  42. RickJ says:

    I go for the Lifetime Laker tag. Magic had Kareem for 4 rings, Kareem came to Lakers to get rings, Wilt came to Lakers to get rings and Magic only played 13 years. Kobe has played more minutes, more playoffs, and scored more points than anyone ever in a Lakers uniform. Then there’s the fact that Magic has been calling him the best Laker for many years already.

    Not that I agree. I’d probably go with Jerry, then Magic, then Kobe…..Kareem sorry, you were a Buck first.

  43. Qasim says:

    So magic played with kareem, worthy ,Cooper, Scott, McAdoo in an era when the league was more physical but it wasnt tougher. They did not have the talent in the west like it is now to challenge such a great team. And the champions in that era got lottery picks which stacked them up even more. Thats why magic went 9 times and only got 5 cause the west wasnt that nice and the east was more challenging and all of his came with kareem. 5/9 isnt barely half. Every 90s kid(who are the relevent players of today) wanted to be kobe thats why when you asked the players who are they looking to see and play against they said kobe. Because thats who we know. By the way I am knowledgeable all the way back to the 50s so im no youngster that need to study the game. Take away Kobe’s first two seasons due to bench play and the last to due to injuries and you will have probably the 2 best player of all time. I’m not counting Kareem because he didn’t play his full career with the Lakers.

  44. John says:

    I don’t consider Kobe in the top 3. In no particular order I would put Magic, West, Kareem, and Wilt Chamberlain ahead of him. It begs the question, are we talking best player to play for the Lakers, or best “Lifetime Laker.”

    Also, Kobe had Shaq for three of his 3 championships if I am not mistaken.

    • Qasim says:

      And magic has kareem on all 9 of his trips in the weaker west. With worthy, cooper, scott, mc adoo on some of those.. What is your point bruh.

    • Dieter says:

      How in hell can you rate players higher then Kobe that only played 5 years for the Lakers??? Offcourse Wilt is one of the greatest, but he was not better in his 5 years then Kobe was in his whole carreer. Best Laker should be based on games played as a Laker.

    • Darren says:

      You do understand that Wilt played with the Lakers at the tail end of his career. Kobe, west, and Magic are easily top 3 in no particular order. And the Shaq argument gets old because he didnt win anything or final game until Kobe became a star. Period. You just sound like someone who not fan Kobe persona, which fine but he and magic won the most championships for the city along with Kareem

  45. Kal says:

    I’m 110% sure a lot less of the younger fans (25ish and under) and future generations would care about basketball, not just in L.A. but the world over, without Kobe Bryant.. All due respect, this isn’t getting enough respect.. Kobe’s brief MJ-esque status popularized to the sport to many who may have taken less of an interest… who may never have known or cared to know Showtime without a rockstar like Kobe as a link, first, to the MJ era..

    Disclaimer: My views may be warped by personal experience growing up playing “NBA Courtside with Kobe Bryant” and “NBA Courtside 2002″when GameCube first came out (he was on the box advertising a new video game platform, that’s how popular he was to the kids at the time) etc. Kobe was like this superheroic mythic figure — it was only when I grew up that I began to appreciate the old guys more.. I can honestly say tho I’m not sure I would have taken to the sport so much as a kid without guys like Kobe, Shaq, Iverson, Nash & Nowitzki, later LeBron … but Kobe because he carried the MJ torch and kept those soaring dreams alive made us youngsters feel like our era was still meaningfully connected to the past… and from there the education began…

    • Huh..? says:

      Yeah your opinion is completely bias, so saying you’re 110% sure is comical. I started watching basketball during the days when the Kings had the loudest arena during the Webber, Divac, Bibby days. As with the dominance of Shaq and the little man heroics with Iverson, you move on when they retire because new players like Lebron, Curry, Westbrook, Durant, and BG enter the league to keep it exciting.

  46. mark cuban says:

    81 points don’t lie
    greatest laker ever

  47. javier says:

    1. Magic
    2. Kareem
    3. West
    4. Shaq
    5. Kobe

    • ant919 says:

      Shaq before kobe? Interesting you really think Shaq had more of an impact on the Lakers than Kobe and Kobe has been there for 19 seasons?

  48. BigCitySid says:

    The Lakers are a truly amazing organization. When you consider the fact that All-Time NBA HOF’s & Top 50 All Time NBA players such as Shaq, Wilt, & Baylor aren’t even in the conversation for “Best Laker”. In my book it’s Magic, Kareem, West, then Kobe. I’ve watched the NBA since ’65 as a 13 year old. You’ve read reasons above for why my top three choices are there. It appears Kobe’s strongest reason to be considered is his longevity. Kareem won more titles and scored more points in a much more efficient manner. Magic was a far superior leader, won the same number of titles and played a major role in putting the NBA in it’s current position and making the Lakers a beloved team world-wide.

    And I’m hard pressed to name another athlete who has done more for his team both on the court and in the front office as West. Kob’s 4th.

    “Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion”

  49. Foo says:

    Any laker fan fool who thinks Kobe is the greatest laker shouldn’t be a laker fan. He’s more accomplished than west but he doesn’t eclipse Kareem on anything, individual or team achievements. He’s not better than magic either.

  50. 5thStreetFreddie says:

    Anyone who called Kobe as better than Magic, Kareem or Jerry West should have his credentials revoked.

  51. shotgun says:

    To be a Laker you must, first and foremost, a team leader. Not a lone wolf. Case closed.

    • ant919 says:

      Just cause he is not taking selfies and hanging out with his teamates every Tuesday does not mean he’s not a team leader . The guy is just all about basketball and if you are not then…

  52. reggohllabam'i llabehtemevig says:

    Kareem and Magic are still number 1 and 2 in LAL franchise