Thu Jun 03 11:45am EDT
As we all know, the Lakers are a storied franchise. Literally, there are stories about them, several in book form. And in their storied history, they've had many storied players who also have had books written about them. George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Elden Campbell, Shaquille O'Neal(notes) — the list goes on and on. And then it goes some more because the Lakers have been around since before the NBA.
But among all those legendary greats, no Laker is more important than Jerry West. He spent his entire career in Los Angeles, then coached the team for three seasons and followed that up with a short stint as a Lakers scout before building the 1980s Lakers that won three titles. Jerry West is a Laker through and through, and when it comes to all-time Laker greats, if you said Jerry West was the greatest, a lot of people would agree with you.
Except Jerry West.
[Photos: See the latest images of Kobe]
He'd totally disagree with you, like he did on the "Hartman and Friends" radio show earlier this week when he got to rhapsodizing about Kobe Bryant.
"[Kobe's] playing the best basketball I have ever seen him play to be honest with you. [...] There's no better player that I've ever seen than him... He's the greatest Laker player that we have ever seen."
Bold declaration, Mr. West, but pretty hard to argue with. Kobe's in his 14th season with the team. He's already got four titles and is gunning for a fifth. After a few rocky seasons, it appears Bryant is going to be a Laker lifer, and since he's been playing in the NBA since he was 18, he'll hold a ton of records for the franchise. Heck, he's only 31 now and he's already got the all-time scoring lead for the Lakers. It's not unreasonable to think he could play another eight years and have a chance at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time NBA scoring title.
So basically, the Logo makes a very strong case. It seems to me that the "Best Laker Ever" competition ultimately comes down to Kobe and Magic Johnson. Magic won five titles and three MVPs in his 13 seasons with the team — not to mention helped save the NBA — so I'd probably give him a slight edge. But if the Lakers win this season, and Kobe plays a few more high-quality years, this won't even be an argument. The only tough choice will be what jersey number he wears in the Hall of Fame. I'm hoping he goes with 8.
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