L.A. Lakers: Does Kobe Need a 6th Ring to Be a Top 5 All-Time Player?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMay 30, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 21:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 21, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of Lakerland who feels star guard Kobe Bryant is a top five all-time player. In fact, there are some who would argue that Kobe is not even worthy of being considered as a top-10 player.

Some of the confusion about Kobe's status as an all-time great is due to the subjective nature of the distinction. Most of it, however, is fueled by pure hate.

How else would you explain the refusal of some people to consider Bryant as a candidate for the NBA's legendary "fab five" after his sterling career?

In my opinion the top five NBA players of all time are Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell in no particular order.

Bryant's five championships, two NBA Finals, MVP awards, league MVP award and numerous selections to various all-NBA teams and all-defensive teams is certainly comparable with anything the players mentioned above accomplished during their respective careers.

And Kobe measures up pretty good historically as well.

Bryant has scored more than 29,000 points in his career, which is the fifth best in NBA history, and there is a good chance that Bryant will pass Jordan for third place in the next two or three seasons if he remains healthy.

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And while surpassing Kareem's career scoring total of 38,387 points would be extremely difficult for Bryant to do, it's not impossible.

Even if Bryant doesn't catch Kareem, there is still a very good chance that Bryant will finish his career as the league's No. 2 scoring leader of all time, but unfortunately, for Kobe, it will still not be enough. At least in the court of public opinion.

Bryant's list of career accomplishments is longer than train smoke, but Kobe doesn't get judged by the player that he is; he gets castrated for everything he isn't.

Magic, Jordan, Wilt and Kareem were measured by their greatness, but Kobe is judged by his flaws.

You rarely hear anyone mention how good Magic could have been if he ever developed a reliable mid-range shot, and it's blasphemy to make the observation that Jordan had the privilege of playing with one of the NBA's top 50 players for each of his championship runs.

You name a Kobe criticism and I've heard it, but does his 45 percent career shooting numbers really hold weight next to everything else he's done in 16 seasons?

Sure, Kobe lost in the NBA Finals twice, but that's also a silly criticism when you consider he's spent nearly half his career in the finals, and Bryant has only missed the postseason once with the Lakers.

Not only has Bryant performed at a high level on the game's grandest stage, but he has reached the point where his days as a player will ultimately be defined by his postseason successes. 

It's no coincidence that all of the players listed in my top five have won multiple titles, and while each one has certainly stood out during the NBA's regular season, their legends were crafted in the postseason.

Rings alone definitely do not make a player great, but they can cement the legacy of a great player.

No one will argue that ring-less greats like Charles Barkley and Karl Malone are not legendary players, but how many of you have them in your all-time top five?

I agree with the sentiment that titles are a team accomplishment, but that argument is only employed by those defending a player who hasn't won a ring.

Those of us who reside in the real world understand the only reason we are forced to endure an 82-game regular season is for the pot of gold that lies at the end of the rainbow.

Bryant has won five championships as an elite player to go along with all of his other career accomplishments.

How much more of a top-five boost could he get for winning another ring?

Some of Kobe's detractors wouldn't care if he won five more rings because as far as they are concerned he will never be an all-time top-five player in their eyes.

My only advice to that group would be to tell them the game looks much better if you actually open your eyes and take the time to appreciate greatness when you see it.