5 Reasons Why Kobe is BY FAR the Greatest Laker of All Time

kobe confetti 

With Kobe becoming just the 5th player in NBA history to reach the 30,000 point in a career milestone, discussion of who is the greatest Lakers player of all time has surfaced once again. The usual names that are brought up in this discussion in addition to Kobe are Magic, Kareem, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. While those were all great Lakers, the amount of evidence is so heavily in the favor of Kobe Bryant as the sole title holder of the greatest Lakers player ever, it is unfathomable that anybody can make an argument otherwise. Here are the top 5 reasons as to why Kobe is by far the best Lakers star of all time.

  • Longevity: 17 years and counting.
    • Let’s say you are trying to determine who is the best lawyer of all time at a particular law firm. We’ll say that one lawyer had 3 years with the firm and the other had 12 years. While the lawyer with 3 years might have had a greater impact in each of his years with the firm than the lawyer with 12 years, the firm only reaped the benefits for a very short span. In contrast, the lawyer with 12 years, while never excelling to the level of the 3 year lawyer in any of his years, they were still highly productive years and contributed to the success of the firm for a longer stretch of time. Now that is an extreme example but I use it here to illustrate the point that Kobe Bryant’s career as a Lakers far extends those of any of the other greats that we are comparing him for the title of Best Lakers player ever.

      Kobe has 17 years and counting with the Lakers. They have received, and continue to receive, every drop of Kobe’s talent without interruption.

Kareem played 6 years in Milwaukee, giving them some of his peak years. Kareem was already 28 years of age in his first season as a Laker. Of the 14 years that Kareem played with the Lakers, we can only say that 6 were indeed great (1975-76 through 1981-82). Kareem was on the Lakers for a full 5 seasons before they were able to get that 1st ring in 1980. Let me remind you that it wasn’t until they acquired Magic that Kareem was able to finally capture that championship, and as well all remember, Kareem wasn’t even on the floor for the clinching game against the 76ers in the 1980 finlas; that was Magic’s memorable game where he lined up at center for the Cap.

Magic, while not his fault as he could have played more years if not for being diagnosed with the HIV virus, only provided the Lakers with 12 years (not including the short stint in 1996 with the Van Exal Lakers). Simply put here, the Lakers got more out of Kobe than any other Lakers player in history. When it is all said and done, his tenure will far exceed any of the other great Lakers players in history.

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  • 5 rings but with 2 different cores.
    • Great players that have acquired championships during their prime years are usually considered in higher regard than those great ones that went ring less in their careers. Kareem, West, Magic and Kobe have all won rings (Ring in West’s case). What separates Kobe from the rest is that he won them with 2 separate groups of players with a down period in between. Kareem didn’t win his championships until Magic arrived and retired with Magic still by his side. Magic always had Kareem at his side for all of his 5 rings. After Kareem retired, Magic was never able to lead the Lakers to another ring, despite having much of the same core outside of the Cap, i.e. Worthy, Scott, Green. Jerry West, well he only won 1 championship. Kobe, however, was part of the 2 man super duo with Shaq that netted the Lakers 3 rings and 4 finals appearances in the early 2000’s. Then, the team was chopped down to spare parts with the trade of Shaq. Kobe was left alone in probably his peak years with the likes of Kwame Brown, Luke Walton and the infamous Smush Parker in the starting line up with many predicting that he would never again be able to carry the Lakers to another championship. Miraculously Kobe was able to carry that sorry starting line up to 2 playoff appearances. Within 4 years of the dismantling of the Shaq/Kobe dynasty another one arose with Kobe as the centerpiece. Kobe with a different supporting cast won 2 more championships and made 3 more final appearances. This feat is something that no other Lakers or even any other star NBA player can claim.

  • Wow factor.
    • The nasty dunk on Dwight, the string of 40 point games, the 81 point game. The list goes on and on with the awe-inspiring feats in Kobe’s career. Kareem’s skyhook was pretty, Jerry West’s fundamentally sound handles and clutch shots were nice, but the thunderous facials on a young Dwight Howard and towering 7’6 Yao Ming by Kobe were simply awesome. Early in Kobe’s young career these examples of his freakishly athletic ability and creativity was common place. Magic’s flair for the game with his no look passes did elicit reactions of ooh and awes during the Showtime era, but how many times did a Kobe play make you blurt out some uncontrollable obscenity? How many “Damn!!” have you shouted in your time watching Kobe? Too many to count.  
  • Defense: both sides of the ball.
    • 9 time All Defensive team 1st team, 3 time All Defensive  2nd team; those are the accolades that Kobe Bryant holds for his defensive ability and efforts in his career. This is a remarkable accomplishment considering that Kobe is one of the greatest scorers this game has ever seen, he has still found the energy and determination to be a great defender. Kareem, Magic and even Jerry West were known to be no more than adequate defenders and don’t have any of the defensive accolades that can compare to what Kobe has accomplished in his career. In both Magic and especially Kareem’s latter years as a Laker, they were defensive liabilities.

  • Pure production
    • I personally don’t like using the term statistics because I think it has a bad connotation to many. They feel that you can manipulate stats in your favor for any argument. Well, that could be the case in some instances, but make no mistake, stats are a measure of your production on the floor andKobe’s production in a Lakers uniform is tremendous. Here is a list of his production in a Lakers uniform and his all time team rank: You can’t deny cold hard facts.Kobe has produced by far the most on the court in a Lakers uniform than any other Lakers player in history.
      • 1st in points: 30,016
      • 1st in Field Goals made: 10,465
      • 1st in 3 point Field Goals made: 1,540
      • 1st in Free Throws made: 7,546
      • 1st in Steals: 1,753
      • 1st in Games played: 1,180
      • First in Minutes played: 43,077
      • He’s also 3rd all time in assist with 5,511 and 5th all time in rebounds with 6,243.

* all stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com

* all stats are for the regular season only

 Kobe’s production, tenure and accomplishments as a Los Angeles Lakers far exceeds every other Lakers player that every put on the purple and gold uniform. He did more, for a longer period of time, while doing it in a fashion that was more entertaining than anybody else. Was he the most likeable during that period? Probably not, but that isn’t the argument that we are making here. Kobe can’t compete with the engaging smile of Magic Johnson, the stoic yet classy way that Kareem handled himself in his career, but what nobody else can compete with is the insurmountable amount of evidence that has been presented that’s in his favor. So you can make your arguments on intangibles and sappy stories of what a player did for the league or the city, I’ll be looking down on those sitting on the mountain of tangible facts that make Kobe Bryant the greatest Lakers player of all time.

– Fern Rea “@fullcourtfern”