Is Kobe the greatest Laker?

With Kobe Bryant announcing his retirement on Sunday, the string of praises and tributes are starting to pour in. Of course with any great player leaving the game one’s place in history will be debated. In August, we asked our stable of scribes across the globe if Bryant is the greatest Laker of all time. Here are their responses.


VIDEOPlayers around the league show their appreciation for Kobe Bryant

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 Mag

17 Comments

  1. Trey says:

    Kobe man has most of the laker records of magic had a longer career then I would say magic hands down but he didn’t so im going with bean

  2. Bill welker says:

    I am 82 and feel so lucky to been here to have seen
    And watched the greatest all of them. Thank god
    We had the NBA

  3. Only Lakers says:

    Kareem shouldnt even be in conversation, as there should be only talk about players which were playing only for Lakers (that`s a true Laker not someone who joined). But thats only my opinion.

  4. sambow5000 says:

    Anyone who puts Kobe ahead of Kareem is either stupid, ignorant, or willfully a bit of both.

    These are Kareem’s — just with the Lakers: Won Five NBA titles, won three NBA regular season MVPs, won one Finals MVP, led the league in rebounding twice, led the league in blocked shots three different times, led the league in Win Shares per 48 mins five different times, led the NBA in Win Shares five different times, led the NBA in Box Plus Minus four different times, led the NBA in Value Over Replacement Player five different times.

    Kobe: Won five NBA titles, one regular season MVP and two Finals MVPs. Led the league in scoring twice.

    That’s it, Kobe never led the league in any other categories (except missed shots and usage percentage), and Kobe, never in his entire career led the league in any advanced metric. Frankly it’s pathetic how overrated he is, teams like the Warriors and Spurs are proving how inefficient his style of basketball, and if it weren’t for Shaq, he would never have won more than two titles.

  5. jdub455 says:

    jabbar is still the best laker. period. magic wouldnt have won those rings without him (the philly championship was just one game). same goes with kobe without shAQ.

  6. Juande says:

    Magic, Kobe and kareem

  7. Kobe has had an unbelievable career for the Lakers, and repaid the faith shown in him when it seriously looked like he and the Lakers would sever ties and he’d be traded. There’s no doubt he’s right up there in the conversation but I don’t think anyone can push Magic Johnson out of the best ever Laker spot in spite of 20 years loyalty to this storied franchise.

  8. Lakermig says:

    Ian Thomsen got it right. It’s not about flash or reviving the NBA it’s about being the greatest LAKER. and kobe has the best numbers, the most years and the joint most chips, plus as Ian said he also NEVER had the kind of team magic was working with in the show-time era. Kobe all day.

  9. Remember says:

    How does everyone miss and forget Wilt Chamberlain? Chamberlain was also a legendary player who played alongside Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, was part of that magical team that had the 33 game winning streak that the Warriors are now chasing. He only had two rings because Bill Russell got eleven out of Chamberlain’s 14 seasons, and the other one went to the heroics of Willis Reed and the Knicks in 1970. He even beat Kareem in a playoff series in the twilight of his career while Kareem was in young and in his prime. Chamberlain was far and away the best individual player of his time, and even proved he was able to be a team player for his two titles. Faulting Chamberlain for only having two simply isn’t fair to him because that’s like faulting Hakeem for not winning more than two when Michael Jordan won his six. Chamberlain holds more records than all the other people combined (true). Wilt was also the best defensive player the Lakers ever had. Kobe is in the top five, but I won’t put him above Wilt, Magic, Kareem, or Jerry.

    My all-time best Lakers list:

    1. Kareem
    2. Magic
    3. Wilt
    4. Jerry West
    5. Kobe

  10. jay_zee says:

    I’ve been a HUGE fan of KOBE since 1998, when I saw him at the All Star Game. I believe that there has never been a man who did so much for his team and organization, as The Mamba. Every ups and downs, he remained with the franchise. Even when they did’t reach the palyoffs, he stayed with them. He’s a leading Laker scorer, has five rings, etc. and moreover, accomplished that having greater opponents and not so great teammates as his predecessors. So trully, I BELIEVE that Kobe Bryant is the greatest Laker ever.
    Respect for everything KOBE!!! And thanks for all the greatest moments. Bests for Poland.

  11. Spoiled vino says:

    Clearly the best!

    1-15, 4-20 and 6-24 on game 7.

    Third time scoring list but all time missed shots.

    Worst fg in 50 years.

    Love,
    From Denver

  12. Stealth says:

    Magic Johnson
    Kareem Jabbar
    Jerry West
    Bryant

  13. George J Foster says:

    The greatest Laker of all time: ELGIN BAYLOR

  14. jay vincennes says:

    Kareem for sure. Maximum years, maximum points, maximum rings. A big guy with much more.

  15. Moonliner says:

    If you’re talking players that spent their entire careers in LA, I put Magic first, Jerry second, Kobe third, not necessarily because of skill, but because of team mentality. Jerry and Magic were always team first, Kobe was 50-50 at best. I always felt that Kobe thought of Kobe first, although I certainly not qualified to know.

    If you allow in anyone who played a good chunk of their careers with the Lakers, Kareem, Wilt, and Shaq move in front of Kobe, just from sheer physical dominance. If a requirement for championships is removed, Elgin moves in front of Kobe on skill AND team play.

    If I had to win a game with a mythical Lakers team, all in their prime, Magic and Jerry would be my guards, so Kobe’d come off the bench. Elgin and James Worthy would be my forwards. And the big three at center could flip a coin, most likely deferring to Kareem for points and longevity.

    Geez, how my favorite franchise has fallen.

  16. maxout34 says:

    Magic and the Lakers go hand in hand. Kareem and the Lakers also. “The Logo” a given and who could forget the Elgin Baylor films from the sixties and early seventies. With all that history you’d have to have had one stellar care in Purple and Gold to be considered the No. 1 Laker of all time. I think Kobe is there, his numbers speak for themselves and all accomplished in two decades while only suiting up for the Lakers.

  17. No. Magic Johnson is.