November 29, 2011
So when Shaq talks about Kobe Bryant(notes) as the "greatest Laker of all time," well, where does this come from? O'Neal spent his entire Los Angeles Laker reign carping about not getting the ball enough from Kobe, while the two worked together from 1996 to 2004, and though time heals all wounds (and wounds all heels), can we really take the Diesel at his word?
Here's the video:
Kobe is fantastic. A born Laker, a five-time champion (the same as Magic Johnson), and an absolute killer on both sides of the ball. Personally, I'd take Magic or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to start a team, and probably Shaq (despite his annoying off-court habits) to start a squad ahead of Kobe, but one shouldn't dismiss Bryant's personal accomplishments.
Nor should anyone dismiss O'Neal's ambitions, here. He has a book to sell, and a legacy to make right. He's right about all-around players doing more than low-post lunks, but low-post lunks win championships. And though Bryant had his failings, the last of the all-around big men shouldn't dismiss his own contributions.
He shouldn't overrate them, either. Which is why we're still going with Magic and Kareem. Flip a coin. And ignore Kobe when he calls for the ball.
That said ... kids? Emulate Kobe. In terms of ambition and effort, no Laker comes close. Jerry West can inadvertently pose for a logo, Shaq can sell a heap of books, Magic pays that barista you have a crush on, and Kareem probably got to hang out with Joe Henderson. But Kobe Bryant watches tape, shoots (or makes) 500 jumpers a day during the offseason, and understands why he isn't the greatest Laker ever.
That doesn't stop him from trying to be the greatest Laker ever. Which is why Kobe Bryant is so fantastic.