Draymond Green on why Kobe Bryant isn’t brought up in greatest of all time debate

When basketball fans debate who is the greatest player in NBA history, it usually comes down to just two people: Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

For years, it seemed as if Jordan was the consensus winner of that debate, but in recent times, James has gradually snatched more and more support.

At the same time, there are a few who have pointed out the late Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant is never even mentioned in such debates despite being recognized as one of the greatest ever and an absolute icon of the game.

On his podcast “The Big Podcast,” Bryant’s former Lakers superstar teammate Shaquille O’Neal asked Draymond Green why Bryant isn’t in the greatest of all time debate. Green said Bryant should be in the conversation, and he gave a very thoughtful and truthful explanation about why the Hall of Famer isn’t (at 34:18).

“Here’s why I think he’s not [in the conversation],” Green said. “Because, number one, he played with you and people hold that against him. Number two, I think Kobe kind of fell in a weird time. And what I mean by that is Mike (Michael Jordan) left the league. When Mike left the league, y’all were dominating. And then you left the Lakers. When you left the Lakers, they had a few rough years, it wasn’t great.

“… They didn’t have great roster. Rudy Tomjanovich, that was that was an epic fail, like it just wasn’t great. And while it wasn’t going great, there was a young guy in Cleveland starting to make his hay. And so, in the years where Kob could have been dominating, which he was from a number’s standpoint, but they weren’t winning. In those years, Bron [James] was making his hay and starting to make his name, and is he the best player.”

O’Neal then said that he agreed with Green’s assessment and that he would to hear Bryant’s name be put in that conversation.

When Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1999, O’Neal took over as the league’s most dominant player. By the 2000-01 season, Bryant was being called the best all-around player by people around the league, but he also became widely hated because of his perceived dourness and egotism, as well as his feud with O’Neal.

The two superstars won three straight NBA championships from 2000 to 2002, but O’Neal got the lion’s share of the credit. There is still a lingering misperception that Bryant merely rode O’Neal’s coattails and that L.A. would’ve been just as successful with any other All-Star guard in his place.

When James stormed into the league in 2003, the media instantly pushed the narrative that he was the greatest thing since sliced bread, even as his Cleveland Cavaliers teams didn’t come close to winning it all year after year. Even though Bryant upped his game after O’Neal left the Lakers in 2004 and eventually continued to win championships, many refused to give him his due.

These debates come down to much more than numbers. The raw numbers and analytics alone strongly favor James over Bryant, but many purists and students of the game will point out how clutch Bryant was and the fact that he needed to win in order to be OK with himself.

It is up for debate whether Bryant or James is the better player. But Bryant absolutely belongs on the highest pantheon of NBA greats alongside Jordan, James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, even if he was the worst player in that group.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire