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Kobe Bryant's Numbers Make It Hard To Deny His Place in Lakers' History

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 21, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates in the final moments of the Lakers victory over the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  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

When Los Angeles Lakers great Jerry West called Kobe Bryant the greatest Laker in history, he was only validating a thought many had felt would become an eventuality for Bryant.

Bryant was already the career scoring leader for Los Angeles in the regular season and playoffs, and when he helped the Lakers clinch the NBA title against the Boston Celtics, he tied Magic Johnson for most championships won as well.

Bryant's five championships to go along with his numerous other accolades would appear to level the ground on which he and Johnson stand, but character traits and an unwillingness to let go of the past has hampered his ascension.

For many people, myself included, Magic will always be the greatest Laker of them all, but to deny Bryant a spot in the conversation is similar to continuously walking into a wall that you know exists.

The Lakers are of the NBA's greatest basketball franchises, and even people who show no allegiance to the purple and gold have an opinion on who the franchise's greatest player is, and the list usually includes West, Magic, and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar.

That holy trinity of players has accounted for 10 NBA championships for the Lakers, and are all regarded as some of the best players in the history of the game at their respective positions.

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Bryant's 14-year career has been just as decorated as any of the players mentioned, and if he were to win another championship Bryant would stand alone at the top of the list in two of the most important categories.

Only those stuck in denial or in the past would argue Bryant's merits to be included in this group, and the charisma of Magic should not be a deciding factor on whether Bryant attains the top spot.

Magic's impact on the game of basketball in the 80s cannot be under-valued, but what he and Larry Bird did to save the sport is unrelated to the Lakers' franchise in general.

Magic and Bird's duels in the 80s brought attention to the NBA at a time when many thought the league was in danger of failing, but does that accomplishment weigh on Magic's value as a Laker?

What Magic did for the NBA is great, but it's doubtful the record books will include an asterisk for a feat which can't be measured, and in the end all we have to go on is numbers.

In a sport dominated by statistics Bryant has put up some very impressive ones of his own, and even if we refuse to consult them when passing judgement, they are still there for all to see.

When West made his comments after Game Seven, there were a number of people who rose to challenge his statements, but it's telling that Magic and Kareem were silent about their opinion.

Maybe they had to much class to openly dispute West's claims, or maybe their silence was just an admission of what they both also know to be true.

Bryant may not stand as the greatest Los Angeles Laker in the eyes of many, but with each passing year he makes it more difficult to be excluded from the conversation.

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