Lakers Video: Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Has Kobe Bryant & LeBron James Ahead Of Michael Jordan
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Countless young NBA stars regularly show respect for Kobe Bryant, proving the Los Angeles Lakers legend’s impact on the young generation of basketball players.

Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker usually honor Bryant’s memory ahead of important games for the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns, respectively. Giannis Antetokounmpo recently opened up about his relationship with the Lakers icon, saying he doesn’t like the comparisons to Kobe because he didn’t get to know him to well.

Meanwhile, when Oklahoma City Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has gotten into a conversation about the NBA’s all-time greatest players during his “Shai Hoops” training camp, he picked Bryant ahead of LeBron James and Michael Jordan:

Gilgeous-Alexander argued Bryant’s competitiveness and five championship rings, in addition to his extraordinary skills, make him overall the best to have ever played basketball.

Skill-wise, the 24-year-old breakout star picked Kevin Durant as his No. 1. “Durant is 7 feet tall and can-do everything Steph Curry can do,” he said.

Gilgeous-Alexander was born in 1998, two years after Bryant joined the Lakers. He might not remember how Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal led L.A. to a three-peat in the early 2000s. However, the Thunder guard got to witness Bryant’s peak around the time he started school and could watch him win back-to-back titles alongside Paul Gasol between 2009-2010.

The Thunder guard is having a terrific season, averaging 31.1 points, 6.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks — all career-highs. He’s also shooting 52.6% from the field and 39.1% from downtown, making a strong case for this campaign’s Most Improved Player award.

O’Neal wishes he talked with Bryant more often

Shaquille O’Neal recently reminisced about his relationship with Bryant, saying he regrets they didn’t talk more often before his former teammate’s tragic death. “You put off [getting in touch],” he said.

“I’ll never get to see Kobe again, in real life, forever. And I just should have called. He should have called. We both should have called. But he’s working, I’m working, so it’s ‘I’ll see you when I see you.’”

And he continued: “[I thought], ‘We’re both going to get old. We’ll both be at the 50-year Lakers anniversary.’ Other things shouldn’t have been more important [than getting in touch], but little things [got in the way].”

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