LA Lakers: Does Kobe Bryant Need a 6th Ring to Cement His Status as Best Laker?

Sim RissoFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 19:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on February 19, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Lakers 102-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With a franchise as historic as the Los Angeles Lakers, it's difficult to be recognized as the greatest player in franchise history. After all, the Lakers boast 16 NBA championships and all-time greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor, George Mikan and Jerry West to name a few.

But where does Kobe Bryant come out in all of this? Is he the greatest Laker in franchise history, or does he need to win a sixth ring to distinguish himself from the group?

The answer to that last query is: yes. As great as Kobe Bryant's been throughout his career, he needs to win a sixth ring to be recognized as the greatest Laker in franchise history.

By winning his sixth ring with the Lakers, Kobe will accomplish something that George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson were unable to. All three have five rings with the Lakers, although technically, Mikan's first championship was in the BAA. As a franchise that prides itself on its ability to consistently win championships, winning No. 6 is a big thing.

Besides Kobe's success winning championships, he also displays the necessary individual skills to be considered the Lakers' all-time great.

Because comparing eras is difficult to do due to stylistic changes in the game, the easiest way to get an even playing field is through win shares.

The only Laker that's currently ahead of Bryant in that category is Jerry West, who has 162.6 career win shares compared to Bryant's 162.4.

However, West only won one NBA championship during his career. Kobe's already got five rings, giving him a huge edge. Plus, Bryant's still playing at a high level, so he's going to pass West in career win shares in the early part of next season.

Among the aforementioned Laker greats that have five rings with the franchise, Magic (155.8) and Kareem (158.7) are close in win shares, but neither is ahead of Bryant.

Abdul-Jabbar, in fact, actually has more career win shares if you include his time with the Bucks. He also won a ring with Milwaukee, giving him six NBA championships. That might make him the greatest player to ever play for the Lakers, but that's different than being the best Lakers player ever.

The popular choice by many Lakers fans as the greatest player in franchise history is Magic Johnson. After the Lakers won their last championship in 2010, Johnson said that Bryant would be the greatest Lakers player ever if he picked up that sixth ring.

"The great thing about the Lakers is that we judge by championships," said Johnson. "So when Kobe gets that next one, then he'll be The Man; he'll be the greatest Laker. And I'll have no problem giving him that.''

If what Magic says is true, that the Lakers judge their players based on championships, then Kobe will indeed cement himself as the best Laker ever with his sixth ring. Heck, if that's good enough for Magic, it's certainly good enough for me.