The city of Los Angeles has been blessed with a plethora of basketball superstars over the years. From Kareem-Abdul Jabaar to Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers have almost always had stars to build around.
For years, many pundits agreed that Magic Johnson was at the top of the list, standing above all others as the greatest to ever wear the purple and gold. Then, before Kobe Bryant’s final game on April 13th, Magic himself proclaimed that the title of “Greatest Laker of All Time” now belongs to Kobe. It was a humble admission; one that was indicative of the high level of mutual respect that exists between the two stars.
Over a month has passed since then, but in a recent appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, Johnson steadfastly defended his claim that Bryant has surpassed him:
“When you think about what Kobe has achieved, you know, we both have five championships…but at the end of the day, he has represented this city and the Lakers organization as well as anybody could”
Magic went on to say that Kareem Abdul-Jabaar is the greatest athlete Los Angeles has ever seen due to his three NCAA titles with UCLA in addition to the five titles he won with the Lakers, but Kobe gets the nod because he spent his entire career in a Lakers uniform.
On that note, Magic is absolutely correct. Bryant’s 20 years as a Laker are tough to beat, especially when considering the impact that he had not just on the team but on the city and the game of basketball as well.
Still, the question regarding who is the greatest Laker ever will continue to be a debatable one. Not only are Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, and Bryant in the mix, but Chamberlain, O’Neal, and Jerry West have to be considered as well. An argument could even be made for George Mikan, the first true Lakers star.
Taking a trip down memory lane does make the current state of the once-mighty Lakers that much more jarring. When Kimmel mentioned this, Johnson took a moment to lament the team’s struggles:
“Kobe and I have mutual respect for each other. It’s all about winning. Both of us were about that, our will to win was high. Now we see these Lakers and both of us can’t stand that, so we are just hoping we can get back”
Fortunately, there is no question that optimism is returning the embattled Lakers fan base. After witnessing Kobe’s historic final game, the arrival of new coach Luke Walton, and the team landing the second pick in the 2016 draft, it’s hard not to feel confident about the team’s future.
General manager Mitch Kupchak will have roughly $60 million to spend on free agents, which means that the Lakers could get better in a hurry this summer. Regardless of who the GLOAT (Greatest Laker Of All Time) is, we do know that a competitive team is something that all players, past and present, would like to see.