Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant is without a doubt one of the greatest players to ever step foot on an NBA floor. Where he ranks on the all-time list is dependent on who is compiling it, but a trend has undoubtedly begun to form when it comes to his placement.
When players are talking about Kobe, he seems to almost always be in the top five, but when the media and analysts produce a list he comes in near the back of the top 10 and sometimes out of it completely.
ESPN’s recent all-time list ranked Bryant at No. 9, and former teammate Matt Barnes is tired of it. Barnes has played both with and against Kobe Bryant on the league’s biggest stages and has no doubts that Kobe, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James are the three greatest players ever.
In an interview with Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated, Barnes expressed his frustration over what he believes is disrespectful treatment of Bryant:
Those are the top three players in the history of the game. It bothers when I see the disrespect. ESPN just came out with a list, and they had Kobe at nine. When you ask players, they’ll tell you, but it’s always the ‘experts’ that make these lists.
All-time lists are subjective and meant to elicit debate by design. Very rarely will people produce the exact same order and debates like this are what make sports fun. When it comes to the all-time greatest NBA players list, Kobe and LeBron are the most divisive players.
But when it comes to Bryant, the divide seems universally to be between players and media. He is universally respected by his peers. Those who came before him respect his desire to win at all costs.
Those who played with and against Bryant marvel at his work ethic and have story after story recalling how great he was. And those who followed him are inspired and motivated by what he accomplished and his ‘Mamba Mentality.’ Very few players have that type of impact through all generations.
Barnes has long been one of the most outspoken players in the NBA both when he was still in the league, as well as now that he’s a member of the media. He has Kobe ranked second all-time behind Jordan and ahead of LeBron.
The argument will continue on for years and years, but Barnes and other players will continue to make sure Kobe’s impact and legacy is never forgotten.