Magic Johnson is widely considered the greatest point guard in NBA history, although an argument can be made for John Stockton who had the prototypical point guard body. Johnson basically created the term used today of a "point forward" meaning a taller individual player who can handle the ball like a point guard.
Johnson put up some incredible numbers as a Laker and even came close to averaging a triple double in a season in 1981-1982. His career was cut short by his announcement of contracting the HIV virus.
In his career Johnson won five NBA championships. His accolades speak for themselves, which include three Finals MVPs, three MVPs, nine All-NBA First Team selections, one Second Team All-NBA selection, and First Team All-Rookie selection.
In his career Johnson averaged 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, 7.2 rebounds, 1.9 steals, on 52 percent shooting, 30.3 percent from three, and 84.8 percent from the free throw line.
He ranks number one all-time in assists per game and fourth all-time in total assists.
In the playoffs Johnson's numbers were similar to his career averages like his 81-82 season, Johnson nearly averaged a triple double in the playoffs. Johnson was just 20 years old and in his rookie year in 1979-1980.
In total he averaged 19.5 points, 12.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds, on 50.6 percent shooting, 24.1 percent from three, and 83.8 percent from the free throw line.
Johnson is number one all-time in assists, number one all-time in assists per game, third all-time in steals, sixth all-time in free throws, ninth all-time in playoff games, and 10th all-time in free throws attempted.
If you are too young to have seen it, there's a truly amazing NBA Finals performance of Johnson. In his rookie season, Johnson replaced the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and started at center against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Johnson showed an array of skills including a Jabbar-like skyhook. He went for 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, dished out 7 assists, and had three steals. That effort was the reason the Lakers won game six to win the NBA title.
Bryant has yet to have that defining moment in the Finals where he truly took over a game.
Now how does Kobe Bryant stack up against Johnson? Bryant's accolades include one MVP and two Finals MVPs. He is an eight time All-NBA First Team selection, eight time All-NBA Defensive First Team, two time All-NBA Defensive Second Team, two time All-NBA Second Team, and two time All-NBA third team member.
To date, in the regular season Bryant has averaged 25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals, on 45.5 percent shooting, 34 percent from three, and 83.8 percent from the free throw line.
In the playoffs Bryant averages 25.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, on 44.8 percent shooting, 33.7 percent from three, and 81.5 percent from the free throw line.
Bryant currently ranks third all-time in field goal attempts, fourth all-time in points, fourth all-time in field goals, fourth all-time in free throws, fifth all-time in free throws attempted, and eighth all-time in steals.
Bryant holds the edge over Johnson in terms of scoring ability and defense. Johnson on the other hand was the better distributor and rebounder.
How about looking at the best three seasons of the two as well?
Johnson's three seasons look like this:
1988-1989 : 22.5 points, 12.8 assists, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals, on 50.9 percent shooting, 31.4 percent from three, and 91.1 percent from the free throw line.
1986-1987 : 23.9 points, 12.2 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals, on 52.2 percent shooting, 20.5 percent from three, and 84.8 percent from the free throw line.
1981-1982 : 18.6 points, 9.5 assists, 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 steals, on 53.7 percent shooting, 20.7 percent from three, and 76 percent from the free throw line.
Bryant's three best seasons:
2002-2003 : 30 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.2 steals, on 45.1 percent shooting, 38.3 percent from three, and 84.3 percent from the free throw line.
2006-2007 : 31.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.4 steals, on 46.3 percent shooting, 34.4 percent from three, and 86.8 percent from the free throw line.
2005-2006 : 35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.8 steals, on 45 percent shooting, 34.7 percent from three, and 85 percent from the free throw line.
So, when comparing the three best seasons of each player it's obvious that Kobe seems to have the advantage over Johnson by the scoring numbers. However, Johnson was far more well-rounded.
What about the playoffs?
Johnson's three best playoff performances:
1984-1985 : 17.5 points, 15.2 assists, 7.1 rebounds, on 51.3 percent shooting, and 84.7 percent form the free throw line.
1985-1986 : 21.6 points, 15.1 assists, 7.6 rebounds, on 53.7 percent shooting and 76.6 percent from the free throw line.
1979-1980 : 18.3 points, 9.4 assists, 10.5 rebounds, on 51.8 percent shooting, 25 percent from three, and 80.2 percent from the free throw line.
Bryant's three best playoff seasons:
2009-2010 : 29.2 points, 6 rebounds, 5.5 assists, on 45.8 percent shooting, 37.4 percent from three, and 84.2 percent from the free throw line.
2007-2008 : 30.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, on 47.9 percent shooting, 30.2 percent from three, and 80.9 percent from the free throw line.
2000-2001 : 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists, on 46.9 percent shooting, 32.4 percent from three, and 82.1 percent from the free throw line.
Advantage in the playoffs go to Johnson.
Johnson was never on a losing team with the Lakers. The most wins in a season for the Lakers was 65 in the 1986-1987 season. As for Bryant the most amount of win the Lakers had was 67.
The lowest number of wins in a season with Johnson was 54. With Kobe, 34.
It's difficult to decide the greatest Laker of all-time. Both Johnson and Bryant have five championship rings.
When you look at accolades Johnson has two more MVP Awards and one more Finals MVP Award.
At this point in time Johnson holds a slight edge over Bryant, but not by much. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before Bryant surpasses Johnson.