I’ve heard people argue that Wilt contributed more to the Lakers' organization than Kobe Bryant did, but that’s just ridiculous. Wilt brought one championship and one Finals MVP award to L.A.
Kobe Bryant surpassed that in the last two years alone.
Kareem helped the Lakers to five rings and is the NBA’s all time leader in career points, but he won only a single Finals MVP award as a Laker and spent several years in Milwaukee before even arriving in L.A.
Jerry West has only one ring and the Finals MVP award he did win actually came in a loss. He remains the only player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP award in a loss.
Since West was the first player to ever win the award in the first place and the requirements of winning the award weren’t firmly established, he will undoubtedly remain the only player to do so.
Shaq is… well… a multitude of things, but there are hardly enough negative adjectives in the English language to detail all of them so we’ll just point out that he’s a Celtic and leave it at that.
Who does that leave?
Only the most recognizable, successful point guard in NBA history: Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
Unlike Kobe, Magic’s on court decisions were virtually always in the best interest of his team. He took shots in the flow of the offense, was an excellent rebounder, and gave his team whatever they needed to win.
As great as Kobe is – and he’s among the very best to ever play the game – he’s no Magic.
Magic would not have hurt his team with a 6-24 shooting performance the way Kobe did in Game 7. Magic would not take the other worldly shot attempts Kobe does on a routine basis.
And let’s face it, Magic would not have refused to adjust his game or the amount of shots he takes if his body wasn’t cooperating the way Kobe’s wasn’t in the first round of the playoffs.
That said, Kobe is a five time NBA Champion, easily the most clutch player in the NBA today, the most complete guard the game has seen since Jordan, and one of the most dynamic scorers of all time.
From a purist’s standpoint, Kobe’s legacy should be nearly equal to Magic’s as he’s helped bring the Lakers an equal amount of championships (on fewer attempts).
When he retires, I’m all for Kobe getting a statue right next to Magic, but none of this is to say that Kobe and Magic were equal in what they brought to their respective teams.
As of today, August 29, 2010, Kobe Bryant is NOT the greatest Laker of all time.
However, should Kobe lead the Lakers to a third consecutive championship, surpassing Magic in rings and tying him in Finals MVP awards then this topic can be revisited.
Even though that should be enough for Kobe to surpass Magic’s legacy, he still lacks the virtually infallible decision making and diversity Magic displayed throughout his entire career and that should not be forgotten.