Barkley said during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up that Bryant is the greatest player he has seen since Jordan was still in the league:
“Kobe Bryant is the best basketball player I’ve seen compared to Michael Jordan. I think Michael is the greatest I’ve ever seen and played against but the only guy I’ve said… I’ve always said this… Kobe Bryant is the closest I’ve ever seen. I didn’t get to play against Kareem in his prime or with a Bill Russell or LeBron but I’m telling you Kobe Bryant is the best player I’ve ever seen other than Michael Jordan,” Barkley said.
His comments are telling of just how much Bryant’s efforts are respected by those that came before him. After all, Barkley had gained plenty of firsthand experience by going head-to-head with Jordan in his prime and it seems he had yet to witness anything close until the Los Angeles Lakers legend came along.
It is safe to say that there are many current and former players that share the same opinion as Barkley. Of course, there will always continue to be debate about the pecking order behind Jordan.
Regardless, there is no question that like Jordan, Bryant’s impact on the game of basketball transcended his achievements on the court and set the bar for the next generation of players to work toward.